Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Racist Rampage, and ICE Honcho John Morton's Hypocrisy

On Friday's Rick Sanchez show on CNN, Immigration and Customs Enforcement head John Morton made it sound like the link between Arpaio and ICE was forever severed -- that ICE would no longer have anything to do with Arizona's corrupt top constable.

According to Morton, Arpaio's sweeps "aren't consistent with our priorities as an agency," which is, "to identify and remove serious criminal aliens from the streets of Arizona."

Morton went on to criticize the sweeps in detail, and the man responsible for them.

"[Arpaio's] sweeps are overbroad," Morton told Sanchez. "They don't have a particular focus or priority on criminal offenders, and he does it in a way that isn't marked by cooperation and coordination within the communities that he serves. And if we're going to enter into a partnership to enforce portions of immigration law, it needs to be done with someone who is working closely with the communities within which they serve, and someone who is focused on the right priorities, namely going after the worst offenders first." (Italics, mine.)

What was never mentioned on the Sanchez show, is that Arpaio and ICE are still joined at the hip in Maricopa County through the new 287(g) jails enforcement agreement. That means that although Arpaio is not focused on "the right priorities," according to Morton, and though Arpaio's jails have lost their accreditation and have been the sites of documented human rights abuses, they still receive the federal seal of approval, with at least 60 of Joe's gendarmes operating as 287(g) in the jails.

When it comes to what Morton referred to as Arpaio's 287(g) task force authority -- meaning the 287(g) deputies in the street -- yes, it has been severed. But ICE continues to back up Arpaio's non-authorized sweeps by taking into custody non-criminal aliens through the LEAR program. LEAR stands for Law Enforcement Agency Response, and through it, any law enforcement agency can drop dime to ICE's Office of Detention and Removal on any suspected illegal immigrant, and DRO will come pick 'em up. The undocumented individual in question need not have violated any state criminal statute to be subject of detention by ICE.

This is apparently what happened with some of those collared by Arpaio during his two-day immigration sweep in Surprise, and those he picked up in Glendale during a raid at the On Your Way Car Wash and Quick Lube. A white ICE van arrived at the scene of the latter, carting away seven workers, some of whom were crying.

Arpaio claims 12 others arrested during the sweeps were turned over to ICE. Thus, Arpaio successfully engaged in his usual "crime suppression" operation in Surprise, this time without 287(g). Yet, he was acting as if his 287(g) street authority was still safely in-pocket.

As Arpaio himself said on Rick Sanchez today, "If we violated [civil rights], why did [ICE] accept them over the weekend with no other charge other than being here illegally?"

I wondered about that myself. So I asked ICE about their cooperation with Arpaio on the Surprise sweep and the car wash raid. This is the response I received from spokesman Vinnie Picard in ICE's Phoenix office:

"Sheriff Arpaio's authority to conduct immigration enforcement actions on the streets of Maricopa County does not derive from any federal authority. ICE had no engagement in MCSO's operations outside of our standard procedure of responding to a local law enforcement agency's request for assistance. Pursuant to federal law, ICE's Law Enforcement Agency Response teams (LEAR) respond to requests and determine whether to take custody of an individual on a case by case basis. The Department of Justice 's Civil Rights Division has an ongoing investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff's office and we would refer questions about that investigation to them."

This statement aside, ICE still benefits from its link to Arpaio. When Arpaio picks up his human quarry in the sweeps, ICE apparatchiks can add those numbers to ICE's totals. And, of course, ICE adds those identified in the jails through the 287(g) program to their totals as well -- reportedly, some 30,000 from Maricopa County.

By picking up non-criminal aliens during a sweep that is clearly unconstitutional, ICE remains complicit in Arpaio's misdeeds, not to mention in the horror show of Arpaio's inhumane gulags. How can Morton claim Arpaio's not good enough to weild 287(g) power, yet facilitate these 287(g)-less sweeps by taking custody of the mothers and fathers Arpaio has cut off from their children?

Arpaio taunted Morton on Sanchez's show today, saying, "Then come on after me if he thinks I'm violating any federal laws." 

It's a timely challenge. Morton and the feds will soon learn that you're either in or out all the way with Arpaio. There are no half-measures with the sheriff. Either you go whole hog with him, or he'll take a bite out of your paw as you try to move a half-step away.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons