Why did six of Joe Arpaio's goons break the arm of a Mexican house-mom?
The answer seems to be that MCSO corrections officers are brutes empowered by a barbaric law enforcement entity that's rewarded with federal immigration power under the 287(g) program.
What The Bird has learned about the beat-down suffered by Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez is that there was absolutely no reason for it. Garcia-Martinez had already given fingerprints when she was booked into MCSO custody March 6 on a bogus charge of presenting a forged instrument to a Phoenix police officer. That charge was later dropped during her near-week in MCSO gulags such as Estrella and Lower Buckeye.
Garcia-Martinez did not resist jailers when they took her prints at booking. But after she had been transferred from Estrella to Buckeye, and with the forgery charges dropped, she was on the fast track into ICE custody (and likely the federal pen in Florence). MCSO officers were determined to get her fingerprint in lieu of her signature on a "certificate of service" (essentially a notice to appear in court on a certain date) — which's ironic since she was already in custody and was not about to be let out anytime soon.
Believing that she was signing off on a voluntary-removal form to send her back to Mexico, Garcia-Martinez refused to give her fingerprint, as was her right, and as any mother would do who had three children who needed her.
MCSO's finest could have simply given Garcia-Martinez the document, with witnesses noting that she would not sign or give her fingerprint. Instead, six guards jumped the 5-foot-tall 46-year-old. They stomped on her legs and twisted her left arm behind her back as they attempted to put her right index finger on the document.
She screamed in pain as they did this. On March 12, after being released from ICE custody, Garcia-Martinez showed this avian her swollen, ink-stained fingers. Her entire left arm, now in a cast after ICE took her to St. Joseph's to be treated, was also swollen — her ankle, as well. And she indicated that the side of her right leg was severely bruised.
"They put their feet on top of her and called her stupid," said Garcia-Martinez's daughter Sandra, translating for her mom.
Garcia-Martinez said she called to the one Hispanic officer out of the gang that was roughing her up, asking him, "Why are you doing this to me, when you came from Mexico also?"
After the physical abuse, the jailers put Garcia-Martinez in a cell for several hours by herself to mull over her pain, which kept her awake. Sometime after midnight, eight more MCSO officers paid her a visit.
"'If you don't put your finger on the paper, we're all going to get you,'" Garcia-Martinez said they told her. Under this threat, she relented, and gave them a fingerprint for the form, which is signed by 287(g) officer A. Reese.
The MCSO practically admitted that they broke Garcia-Martinez's arm in statements made days later to the Arizona Republic, which buried a page-one story on page B3. MCSO flack Doug Matteson admitted that Arpaio's officers unnecessarily coerced a fingerprint out of her. The best he could offer in the way of rationalization was that Garcia-Martinez "tried to bite" the officers, but only "after they placed her in a control hold."
So Garcia-Martinez didn't bite anyone. But the MCSO still broke her arm and beat her up trying to get a fingerprint it didn't really need. For her part, Garcia-Martinez denies she did anything to provoke the attack. The Hispanic hausfrau doesn't look like she could fight off one burly MCSO cop, much less six.
It was a brave fellow inmate who took notice of Garcia-Martinez's injury the morning after, when Garcia-Martinez was placed in a holding area with other women. She wished only to be identified as Rebecca. As she was being released that morning, Rebecca promised to call Garcia-Martinez's then-attorney, Ana Sanchez, and tell her about her client's broken arm, and how she was using her sweater as a sling.
Sanchez swung into action, engaging the help of other attorneys and demanding to see her client. Later that day, ICE took custody of Garcia-Martinez, who had still not seen a doctor. Likely because of Sanchez's relentless prodding, ICE photographed Garcia-Martinez's injuries and took her to St. Joseph's in an unmarked car. When the doctor asked the ICE agent escorting Garcia-Martinez what happened, the ICE guy said, according to Garcia-Martinez, "The MCSO broke her arm."
The ultimate proof of MCSO's complicity is that ICE finally released Garcia-Martinez on her own recognizance, with an April date scheduled for her to go before an immigration judge. For an agency that tries, by hook or by crook, to ship as many warm bodies to Mexico as possible, this is practically unheard of.
"ICE makes decisions about whether to detain an individual during immigration proceedings on a case-by-case basis," said spokesman Vinnie Picard, in a statement carefully vetted by Picard's bosses in D.C., "taking into account flight risk and the potential danger to the community. ICE also considers humanitarian concerns when making a custody decision."
Picard explained that the matter had been turned over to ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation, so he would not comment on the details of the case.
This avian just wishes ICE had considered "humanitarian concerns" when it granted federal authority to an organization with a history of human rights abuses.
The MCSO's notorious for abusing inmates and violating their civil rights. There have been cases of broken arms and necks, like the arm of Eric Johnson, which was snapped by MCSO oafs in 1994 after he demanded a sandwich. Or there's the neck of paraplegic Richard Post, which was broken in 1996 after MCSO guards strapped him into a medieval restraint chair because he asked for a catheter.
As for the list of those who've died in Joe's jails because of MCSO abuse and negligence, that would take a doorstop of a book to do them justice. You may be familiar with some of the names: Scott Norberg, Charles Agster, Phillip Wilson, Deborah Brailllard (see New Times' special "Investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio" page). More recently, there have been the jailhouse slayings of Robert Cotton, murdered May 1, 2008, by a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and Juan Mendoza Farias, beaten to death December 2, 2007, likely by Arpaio's guards, while in stir on a DUI-related probation violation.
It wouldn't have taken the feds long to research this information in New Times' archives, or to find out that Arpaio's jails had been condemned by Amnesty International. Furthermore, they must have known that Arpaio's the sadistic P.T. Barnum of law enforcement, and that he's proud of the punishments meted out by his gendarmes.
So although ICE earns a point for doing what's right in the case of Garcia-Martinez, that mother's broken arm offers painful testimony that Arpaio should never have been given 287(g) authority to begin with, and that it now should be jerked away — not only from Arpaio's 287(g) force of 160 federally deputized law dogs who are active in the sweeps but from the 287(g) officers who work the jails.
That broken arm also lends validity to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the Justice Department is investigating Arpaio's civil rights abuses, and to the declared intention of House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers to hold hearings on the county's corrupt top cop. These developments have Arpaio defenders, such as Republic columnist E.J. Montini, Congressman Trent Franks, and CNN's nativist blowhard Lou Dobbs pitching fits, insisting, as Montini did in a recent column, that Arpaio's the "victim" of a liberal "witch hunt."
If Montini, et al. want a real victim, they should take a look at Garcia-Martinez's case, or that of Ciria Lopez-Pacheco, the Mexican mom who was torn from her crying children in January by MCSO deputies in black ski masks. Or they could read about the harassment endured by the family of Guadalupe resident Elaine Sanchez in our cover story this week, "Are Your Papers in Order?" by Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey.
Arpaio's 287(g) status is in real danger, but The Bird has heard through various back-channels that Department of Homeland Security honcho Janet Napolitano, who oversees ICE, wants to strip Arpaio of his 287(g) force in the field, while keeping an ICE presence in the jails.
See, ICE's dirty little secret is that it gave Joe his army of 287(g) men to get that jail access. It's to the jails that all of Maricopa County's law enforcement agencies take their arrestees. And those who're suspected of committing felonies will be asked about their nationality. If they're believed to be illegal, they can be questioned by a 287(g) officer, an ICE hold can be placed on them, and they can be pressured to sign voluntary-removal paperwork to their home country. If they don't sign, they can be transferred to ICE custody and cool their heels waiting to see an immigration judge.
More illegal immigrants are processed this way than via Arpaio's sweeps, which generally do not produce a large number of arrests. For instance, it was the Phoenix Police Department that collared Garcia-Martinez. According to the arrest report, Garcia-Martinez was contacted by Phoenix cop Karen Anderson at Garcia-Martinez's house because the woman had hung signs nearby advertising a yard sale.
Anderson, who was working a sign-abatement detail, wanted to give Garcia-Martinez a warning, and asked for her ID. All Garcia-Martinez had was an old California ID. (The family has been in the United States for 19 years, the past three in Arizona.) Anderson believed the card was fictitious, eventually called for backup, and got the opinion of an officer supposedly trained in forgeries. Garcia-Martinez was arrested and booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail.
Garcia-Martinez and her new attorney, Danny Ortega, insist the California ID was valid, though expired, as was a matrícula consular card, obtained at the Mexican Consulate, that she presented to the Phoenix PD. Their assertion is supported, in part, by the fact that the charges against her were dropped.
"If she hadn't presented the forged instrument, she probably would have gotten away with a warning," stated PHX PD spokesman Andy Hill. Asked about why the charges were dropped if the ID was fictitious, Hill said the officer had probable cause and that it was up to the County Attorney's Office as to whether to proceed with charges.
And therein lies the cruel Catch-22 for an illegal immigrant such as Garcia-Martinez, who cannot legally obtain an Arizona driver's license. At most, she is guilty of a civil immigration offense, as she is a stay-at-home mom.
But Garcia-Martinez is the victim of soulless, interlocking police agency policies that ferret out undocumented residents, whether or not they've done anything wrong. The Phoenix PD did not break Garcia-Martinez's arm, but it put her in harm's way by turning her over to the MCSO.
As Hill told this heron, "If we do book someone, we know that at the jail, they're going to check for immigration status."
All the more reason for the feds to un-deputize all of Arpaio's 287(g) goons. This will not solve the entire problem, as Arpaio has promised to continue his anti-Hispanic activities using state statutes instead of federal law if he loses his 287(g) agreement. But it might begin to deny Arpaio some victims. And it would force County Attorney Andrew Thomas to go to court with all these cases. That'd be an expensive proposition, assuming Thomas doesn't soon resign to run for Arizona attorney general in 2010, taking his anti-immigrant animus with him.
This funky finch figured Guadalupe Mayor Frankie Montiel's betrayal of his postage-stamp-size burg couldn't get any greater after he genuflected before Arpaio during a January press conference announcing that the MCSO would stay on as Guadalupe's law enforcement provider.
As a requirement of maintaining the contract — one Montiel, a Joe fan, never intended to let slip away after he replaced Arpaio-foe Rebecca Jimenez as the town's mayor — Montiel dropped an expensive lawsuit Guadalupe had brought against the MCSO. Worse than that, in late 2008, Montiel tried to get Guadalupe's town manager to request another "saturation patrol" by the MCSO.
You know, like the one on April 3 and 4 of last year that menaced everyone who was brown in the town — which's practically everybody in a municipality whose citizens are of Yaqui Indian and Mexican extraction. The Bird's not talking about a bunch of illegal immigrants here; most Guadalupe families have been in the town for generations and are just as American as anyone else in Arizona.
Anyway, Montiel's been a Joe bootlicker from jump, but he added insult to the injury he's done by sending out a memo to his fellow City Council members, announcing that he was invitin' Arpaio to Guadalupe, and asking if they wanted to sup with the sheriff when he stops by for a council session on March 26.
"What I propose is to invite Mr. Arpaio and MCSO officials to dinner at the San Diego Bay Restaurant at 6 p.m. prior to the regular council meeting," writes Montiel. "Please contact me with your thoughts."
Why, ain't that sweet of Frankie? Maybe he could tie on Arpaio's bib, too, and wipe his mouth when he tries to inhale a little too much Mexican seafood, the specialty of the house. And if Joe needs someone to wipe something else for him in the eatery's cuarto de baño, no doubt Frankie would oblige.
There are a couple of problems with the dinner idea.
One is Arizona's open-meetings law. If the whole council wants to meet Arpaio over some ceviche and Tecates, they'd still need to post a notice to the public ahead of time, which means San Diego Bay might have to locate a somewhat larger table for the party.
Another is that Arpaio's nearly universally reviled by Guadalupanos since the MCSO's rape of their town last year. And even before that, the town was looking to get rid of Arpaio because of the way MCSO deputies abused and insulted residents, sometimes entering homes without warrants, guns drawn.
Asked about the idea of breaking bread with Joe, Councilwoman Lupita Avelar said she prefers that Arpaio have a town hall event, where residents can air grievances.
"I don't see the point in a private meeting over dinner," she said. "I think it would be very awkward for me. It's hard to explain in words and not be unprofessional about it."
She also suggested that it may be part of an Arpaio PR plan, especially because the sheriff's under the gun now with the feds and because the one-year anniversary of his dastardly Guadalupe dragnet's near.
Avelar's got a point. Arpaio would love a show of (fake) reconciliation with some brown people right about now, and Frankie would love to give it to him. Or, um, take it from him, if you get this gander's drift.