Feathered Bastard

Barack Obama's Shame: Joe Arpaio Wrecks Families, Wounds a Business, Makes a Little Girl Cry, All with Federal Authority

Dennis Gilman's account of Joe Arpaio's car wash raid, and an interview with one of Arpaio's littlest victims.

This Saturday, while real cops were out hunting down murderers, rapists, burglars, and so on, Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- true to his nickname, "Nickel Bag Joe" -- was at Lindstrom Family Auto Wash in Phoenix as his thugs with badges chased down immigrants and non-immigrants working there, corralled them like animals, and sifted through them until they had those they wanted to arrest. The total haul, according to media reports, was around 14 souls.

Participating in the raid on this family business were members of Sheriff Joe's 160-deputy force, trained by the feds under ICE's infamous 287(g) program. 287(g)-trained officers such as the MCSO's Sergeant Brett "Shut Up" Palmer and Lieutenant Joe Souza -- both known for their invidious remarks directed at elected officials -- were present, along with numerous other junior G-men, and members of Arpaio's alter kocker army (a.k.a,, the sheriff's posse).

Most arrested were booked into custody under forgery charges, charges that may end up getting dropped if those arrested sign off on voluntary removal from the U.S., or roll over and testify against their employers.

Fourteen people means fourteen breadwinners, of course. One of the families ruthlessly crushed was that of nine-year-old American citizen Catherine Figueroa, whose testimony was captured on film by pro-immigrant activist Dennis Gilman. Both Catherine's mom Sandra, and her dad Carlos, were collared. She saw her father on TV zip-tied.

"I never knew this would happen," said the girl, who begins fourth grade this year.

Later, when asked what she would tell President Obama if she could, she tearfully asked for his assistance.

"I would tell him to help us," she cried. "I want to get my parents back."

She also noted that one of the President's daughters is close to her age. Indeed, Natasha Obama, Obama's youngest, recently turned eight.

Catherine is an only child, and is now being cared for her by her grandmother.

As those booked were done so on state charges, you might argue that Arpaio could have done the raid without his ICE-trained gendarmes. Yet, he did in fact use his 287(g) men during the car wash bust.

That means the federal government's fingerprints are on this raid. Barack Obama's fingerprints are on this raid.

Recently, I described the visit to Phoenix of a self-important White House staffer by the name of Carlos Odio, who spoke with Hispanic leaders at El Portal restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Essentially, he informed the assembled not to turn blue waiting for the Obama administration to do anything significant about immigration reform. As for Arpaio's 287(g) authority, which could be suspended with a snap of DHS secretary Janet Napolitano's fingers, Obama's peeps are doing nothing fast.

Back when Lyndon Baines Johnson was President, and African-Americans were being denied their civil rights by local sheriffs, he ordered a reluctant J. Edgar Hoover to act. In the midst of the civil rights struggle, Johnson famously told both houses of Congress that, "We shall overcome." And overcame they eventually did.

Similarly, during Obama's 2008 campaign, our now President borrowed a phrase from Cesar Chavez and the UFW, "Si, se puede," which Obama offered up as, "Yes, we can." But as Hispanics in this country continue to suffer at the hands of tin-pot tyrants with 287(g) power, Obama's commitment to that phrase must be questioned. His administration's cynical, laissez-faire attitude to those hell-bent on cleansing neighborhoods, cities, and states of all the brown they can is painful to observe.

Sure, there are investigations, and investigations of investigations, and that is fine. But children such as Catherine need the Obama administration to act, and act now. Not two or three years from now. 

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