Where the right wing meets the sick and surreal. Is this what Arizona's become? Every day in this state, one's faith in humanity is challenged on the subject of immigration. I half-expect to awake some morn and find State Senator Russell Pearce's recipe for parboiled immigrant infant in my in-box. Or a coupon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's migrant meat tenderizer, with Joe's face feasting on a brown leg o' Mexican, saying, "Mmm, boy. That's good eatin'."
In Sand Land, when it comes to immigration, no proposal is too out there to offend a voting majority of locals. March Mexicans through the streets by the hundreds. Deny them bail. Separate moms from their kiddies. Break arms. Jaws. Anything goes.
So it is with this report from the local Fourth Estate's Howie Fischer on Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's genius idea to start asking schoolchildren about their immigration status.
Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court long ago ruled it unconstitutional to do so. Or the insanity of trying to deport children based on their naive grasp of what country they might belong to. Or even the gross inhumanity of the concept. Hey, we've got moolah to save! So the doddering Dupnik suggests that what this state needs is a good test case to set before the U.S. Supreme Court. You know, kinda like the Dred Scott case did for slavery.
In reading Fischer's calculus of the dollars and lack of sense, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a young man about to graduate from Phoenix's North High School. He's currently in Junior ROTC and plans to enter the Army once he's earned his diploma. His parents were both illegal and have returned to Mexico. He obtained a green card only late last year after much legal wrangling and having to prove to a court that he'd been abused by his dad.
In other words, this young man just barely made it through the immigration door, and in doing so, he will serve this country far more than I, or many of you reading this, ever have.
One day over lunch, he explained that he discovered he was illegal when he was in his early teens and was picked to participate in a program that would allow him to work as an intern and make a little money. The only hang-up was that he needed a Social Security number. So he asked his parents about getting one. His father laughed. That's when they explained that he was illegal and could not obtain what he needed for the job.
I wonder what would have happened if Sheriff Dupnik's proposed in-house school immigration enforcers interrogated this young gent before he learned he was not a citizen. Fortunately, as it stands, Mexico's loss is our gain.
For those of you who'll kvetch about your taxes going to educate illegals, all I've got to say is that I pay for your rugrats to go to school, and no one asks me whether I want to or not. If someone did ask me, I'd rather my tax money go to educate some Mexican kid whose parents risked life and limb to get here, instead of the progeny of the lumpen cracker hate-mongers who will no doubt love Clarence Dupnik's modest proposal.
What does Dupnik do for an encore? Check immigration papers in the playground sandbox? Mark the swing sets "for citizens only"? I've ceased being shocked by this state anymore. Dupnik's suggestion jumps the ever-lovin' shark.
WHITE TRASH HERO
I must say gracias to Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox from the bottom of my little black heart for his decision to run against Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2010 Republican primary. In doing so, Simcox is giving me a year-plus of material to write about. This must be what reporters in Louisiana felt like when ex-Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke ran against Edwin Edwards for governor of the Pelican State.
I'm not suggesting a close parallel between Duke and Simcox, but there are similarities. Sure, Simcox's nativist beliefs, while despicable, are not on par with those of Duke, an avowed racist. Yet, each represents a cleaned-up, better-coifed, TV-ready example of the lunatic fringe they represent.
Simcox cannot beat McCain in a Republican primary in Arizona, despite the dissatisfaction Maricopa County's GOP wing-nut division has with our senior senator. McCain continues to support an immigration-reform package that includes securing our border with Mexico as a prerequisite. Simcox represents the nyet side of the Arizona Republican Party, the modern-day know-nothings, those who want to round up the 500,000-plus undocumented in the state and fling them across the border, perhaps with some jail time under their belts.
For years now, Simcox has been positioning himself for just such a run, moving to the center of a movement that normally rewards the most extreme point of view. For example, he's expressed sympathy with those wishing to sneak into the country to better their lot in life, while dismissing any possibility of amnesty. He's also stated that those born in the United States have a right to citizenship, per the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — a right assailed by many in the nativist camp, including Michelle Dallacroche, who labels children born to undocumented parents "anchor babies."
But this sort of calculated posturing will not rid him of the baggage he's accumulated in his weird journey from L.A. kindergarten teacher to self-avowed border patriot in Cochise County and, now, Scottsdale resident and seeker of public office. He's widely loathed in his own movement for his high-handedness, hence the nickname "The Little Prince." Defectors have regularly accused him of financial shenanigans. And interestingly, according to the few financial records the MCDC has online, Simcox draws no salary from the organization he leads.
Simcox cannot write off these complaints as questions coming from traitors and plotters of internal coups. In 2006, the conservative Washington Times published a stinging exposé about Simcox's lack of financial accountability as president of the MCDC. The article pointed out that former MCDC-ers were "questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in donations."
Then there's Simcox's criminal record. In 2004, he was convicted in U.S. District Court of carrying a semi-automatic handgun into a national park and giving a "false or fictitious report" to a federal park ranger about the incident. He received 24 months of supervised probation and a $1,000 fine. The gun-carrying stuff may play well with his followers, but his conviction for giving a "false or fictitious report" could raise concerns about Simcox's credibility.
The Minuteman honcho's ex-wives have also called into question Simcox's character. According to a 2005 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine Intelligence Report, Simcox's first ex-wife accused him of trying to sexually molest their 14-year-old daughter. His second ex-wife accused Simcox in court of having a mental breakdown and of erratic, sometimes violent, behavior.
"He once took a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill himself," the second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar, testified in court, according to IR. "When he was angry, he broke furniture, car windows, he banged his head against the wall repeatedly, and punched things."
Simcox has denied these allegations.
Critics in and out of his movement have assailed the MCDC's promises to build "Israeli-style" border fences on private land near the border. In 2007, Fountain Hills resident James Campbell sued the MCDC in an attempt to get back $100,000 he had donated for the construction of just such a fence. Campbell, who had mortgaged his property to raise the $100K, accused Simcox and the MCDC of diverting the money for other uses. According to a report last year in the Sierra Vista Herald, Campbell said he "allowed the civil case to be dismissed because he did not want to continue to fund the litigation."
With a personal and public history like this, you'd think Simcox's run for the Senate could be dismissed as a joke. But to return to the David Duke analogy for a moment, in that Louisiana campaign for governor, Duke lost yet ended up drawing almost 40 percent of the vote, a respectable showing for a white supremacist. Simcox doesn't have to beat McCain to win. All he has to do is score well enough in the primary to claim a symbolic victory for himself and the nativist wing of the Republican Party.
Any way you look at it, Sheriff Joe's recent Avondale sweep was a colossal waste of manpower and resources.
Two days with 200 deputies and posse alter kockers on patrol, and all that Joe collared were 40 people — 20 of them suspected illegal aliens — reports ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley. Heck, the Phoenix Police Department nabs more illegal immigrants in a routine drop house bust, thereby saving some lives in the process.
As if that weren't bad enough, there was a home-invasion robbery in the same area on day one of the sweep involving five men in ski masks and police-like uniforms, according to a Channel 12 report. As it is public knowledge that some of Arpaio's boys in beige don ski masks to hide their identities during patrols, it's plausible that the home-invaders might've been playing on that information during their crime. Arpaio's griped that "the two victims [of the robbery] are not cooperating." Why should they, when the MCSO is more concerned with profligate anti-brown pony shows than doing the hard work of real law enforcement?
Next comes a prime example of how the MCSO discriminates against Hispanics and flouts the U.S. Constitution in the process. It was caught on tape by immigrant rights activist Carlos Garcia, of the Phoenix group Puente. You can watch the video on my Feathered Bastard blog.
In the video, on the second day of the sweep, a young Hispanic man is pulled over for his license-plate light's being out. He's handcuffed and sat on the curb, as his wife and child watch nearby. The deputy in question brags about how he's going to nab the guy on three felonies. A K9 officer is called, and he searches the vehicle with his dog. This is done without the permission of the arrestee.
The search appears to be in violation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting such K9 searches of vehicles, save in very specific circumstances. The deputy in question must not have gotten the memo. That's assuming the MCSO cares enough about Supreme Court rulings to inform its deputies on how to comply with them.
Garcia compares this stop with footage of a white guy pulled over during the same sweep. In contrast to the handcuffed Hispanic fellow, he is not arrested. Instead, he gets to put his feet up and laughs the whole thing off. Guess it pays to be an ofay when the MCSO is involved.
I will say one thing for the Avondale sweep, it drew its share of protesters, about 100 anti-Joe folks, and about 20 or 30 pro-Joe people. On the first night, the groups shared a sidewalk in front of the sheriff's command center, and the back-and-forth was heated, edging on violence, especially from one round, redneck loudmouth in a red shirt whom everyone referred to as "Big Red." I tried to engage Big Red in civil discourse, but he was obviously agitated and kept yelling at me and others.
I ended up telling Big Red the story of Avondale resident Julio Mora, an American citizen, who, along with his 66-year-old legal-resident dad, was detained by sheriff's deputies in February as he was taking his father to work at HMI, a Phoenix landscaping company that was being raided by the MCSO. They were each zip-tied, humiliated, and held for three hours. Mora testified at the recent 287(g) hearings in D.C., describing how his diabetic dad was not allowed to use the bathroom and nearly wet himself.
Big Red was unimpressed. First, he denied it happened. Then, he suggested it was just one case. Then, he argued that there was nothing wrong with what happened to the Moras. Finally, he stated that Arpaio couldn't be blamed because he didn't physically arrest the guy. I told him Joe was responsible because it's his agency.
"So if I don't like your paper, I should hit you?" he said.
"If you want to hit me, please go right ahead," I replied calmly.
He didn't take the swing, and was soon yelling at someone else. I later saw him get into it with an African-American guy who was on the anti-Joe side. At one point, when activist Dennis Gilman tried to film him, Big Red pushed his "We Support Sheriff Joe" sign against Gilman's video camera.
I had a long, engaging conversation with this guy named Mike who I'd seen numerous times protesting at the Macehualli Work Center. He was there with his wife, Lori, and he stated that his tree-trimming business had been hurt by competition with undocumented migrants. Currently, he's going to school to become a substance-abuse counselor. We actually had some points of agreement, though we're in disagreement as to a solution on immigration. Mike wants to send the undocumented back, though he conceded that deporting 12 million to 20 million people was unrealistic.
Later, when I was chatting with Mark again, a sergeant from the MCSO walked up to me, accused me of inciting the nativists, and suggested that if I were attacked by one of them, he would not consider me a victim.
I told him not to worry. Like the people home-invaded during the sweeps, the last thing I'd want would be assistance from the MCSO. He left, and returned a little while later with an orange traffic cone, which he put on the sidewalk and ordered me to stand behind. He then informed all the anti-Joe people, and me as well, to remain to one side of the orange cone. He did not similarly advise the nativists.
Being the Irishman that he is, activist Gilman moved the cone about five inches, as a lark. Soon the sergeant and MCSO SWAT captain Dave Letourneau walked over to threaten with arrest anyone who touched the cone. Asked what the charge would be, Letourneau said, "Anything we can think of." Letourneau told me his warning applied especially to me. He later got in Gilman's face, as if attempting to provoke a response.
Late in the evening and after almost everyone had cleared out, I watched as nativist Barb Heller, of the anti-immigrant group United for a Sovereign America, and Big Red headed up to the sheriff's command post for a little confab with the deputies. Ideally, cops should not favor one group over another during protests such as these. But when the MCSO is in bed with the extremists, such favoritism is to be expected.