Feathered Bastard

Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board Asks BOS to Terminate Joe Arpaio's 287(g) Agreement with ICE

Though I won't be holding my breath for a snappy response from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board -- which is made up of volunteers appointed by the Governor -- has written BOS Chairman Andy Kunasek, asking that the Supervisors consider the immediate revocation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Memorandum of Agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement concerning Joe's federal 287(g) powers.

This 287(g) authority allows for 160 cross-trained sheriff's office deputies to enforce federal immigration law. The BOS is a signatory to the agreement, which has allowed Arpaio to enact racial-profiling sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods, whole towns like Guadalupe, and corn vendors in public parks, as well as shameful, un-American, SWAT-style raids on candle-making factories, door manufacturers and even the Mesa Public Library, looking for brown-skinned people without papers.

During 2008, ACRAB held a series of public forums in Tucson, Phoenix, and Mesa to look into these racial profiling allegations against the MCSO. The MCSO declined to attend, but the public, civil rights orgs, and other law enforcement agencies did so. ACRAB included minutes of these meetings along with the letter as rationale for their requesting an end to the MCSO's immigration authority.

ACRAB also wrote current Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Acting Assistant Secretary for ICE John Torres, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and ICE's man in Phoenix Matthew Allen, requesting an investigation of allegations of civil rights violations by the MCSO. In this letter, dated December 23, ACRAB made a pointed attack on our county's corrupt top constable.

"Lastly, Sheriff Arpaio through his numerous television, newspaper and other printed statements or quotes makes it very clear he believes he is answerable to no one at the county, state or federal level. He claims that he is only enforcing the law and he appeals to the masses as he is generally recognized as a master of self-promotion. However, no one, no matter how popular or charismatic, is above the Constitution of the United States, and we must turn to you to ask, at a minimum, for an investigation of these allegations and concerns."

Could such a complaint, along with those of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and others, give our weak-willed Governor Napolitano the cover she'll need as Michael Chertoff's replacement to take decisive action instead of just sitting on her hands, as she's used to? Only if a new Justice Department investigates Arpaio and forces Nappy to act. Still, ACRAB's letters do add to the growing chorus of those demanding an end to Arpaio's fear tactics and race-based enforcement. And in that regard, they are most helpful.

(You can read ACRAB's letter to ICE, here,and ACRAB's letter to the Board of Supervisors, here.)

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