ICE’s Matthew Allen and Dennis DeConcini Get Ripped Apart by the Taloned Terror


This ornery oriole's given up on expecting candor from the new head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Arizona office, Matthew Allen.

Back in April, hard on the heels of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Hispanic-hunting sweeps in Phoenix and Guadalupe, Allen (who'd just inherited the job from departing AZ ICE honcho Alonzo Pena) tut-tutted allegations that the Sheriff's Office was in violation of its 287(g) agreement with ICE. You know, the contract that gives Arpaio 160 cross-trained officers empowered to enforce federal immigration law.

"[The sheriff] has stayed within the bounds of the agreement," chirped Allen to journos back then.

This, despite Arizona's already looking like Alabama in the '50s, with skin color used as the "probable cause" for pulling over drivers. The cover for this was provided by the pursuit of traffic offenses, such as cracked windshields and broken tail lights. Of course, ofays need not worry about such trifles during a Sheriff's Office sweep.

Rather, it's the brown folk Joe's goons have been after, because in the MCSO's eyes, everyone out there with a too-dark tan is illegal 'til proven otherwise, even though racial profiling is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and by the dictates of the very Memorandum of Agreement ICE has with the MCSO.

This year alone, Joe's extra-constitutional activities have been the subject of exposés in the East Valley Tribune, New Times, and even our gun-shy paper of record, the Arizona Republic.

Mayor Phil Gordon, the Arizona Anti-Defamation League, the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus, and others have written U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting that the MCSO be investigated for racial profiling over claims that the Sheriff's Office has misused its 287(g) authority. Gordon's actually written Mukasey twice on the subject, offering detailed accounts of Arpaio's abuses. The FBI is probing these allegations.

If that isn't enough, both MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund), and the Arizona branch of the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit in July against Arpaio, the MCSO, and Maricopa County, alleging violations of the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions, and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit specifically cites MCSO's agreement with ICE.

Yet, when ICE honcho Allen made an appearance on KAET's Latino-issues program Horizonte recently for a one-on-one with host Jose Cardenas, he feigned disbelief that any complaints about Joe had been lodged.

"So far, we have not been able to identify any allegations against Maricopa County," said Allen with a straight face. When Cardenas mentioned the ACLU lawsuit, Mayor Phil's letters, etc., Allen replied, "As far as I understand, none of those allegations focus on ICE's authority."

Allen blathered on like the baron of bureaucratic bull that he is, saying when sheriff's deputies pull over some Hispanic dude for, say, failure to signal or whatever, they're operating under state law. These 287(g)-men begin enforcing federal immigration law only after the stop has been made, he told Cardenas.

"Our vision for the 287(g) authority kicks in after a cross-designated officer has exhausted all [his] resources under state law," said Allen.

In reality, all the 287(g) officer has to do is come up with a flimsy excuse to pull over people of Latino descent and then question them about their nationality. Yet, the ICE-MCSO Memorandum of Agreement makes it clear that:

"Participating [law enforcement personnel] who perform certain federal immigration enforcement functions are bound by all federal civil rights statutes and regulations."

These include U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, which repeatedly proscribe the use of race in broadly identifying suspects. The guidelines refer to racial profiling as "not merely wrong, but ineffective."

The ICE-MCSO pact targets dangerous criminal enterprises like drug trafficking and gangs. Nowhere does it mention landscapers whose headlights are out or maids whose car windows are tinted too darkly. Until recently, ICE had a page of frequently asked questions on its Web site, which stipulated that 287(g) officers can use their authority only "when dealing with someone suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense."

Asked about this statement by Cardenas, Allen claimed Arpaio wasn't doing anything like that, when it's clear to anyone with working pupils that Arpaio's twisting ICE's rules into pretzel knots.

The MCSO didn't pull any "crime suppression sweeps" before the ICE-MCSO agreement was signed. If Arpaio didn't have that ICE memorandum in his shirt pocket, the anti-brown dragnets never would have taken place.

Truth be told, Allen's looking the other way, while Arpaio and other agencies supply ICE with the body count required to justify ICE's existence. As long as ICE can say it's removing an increasing number of aliens, Congress will keep giving it more loot. Or so goes the logic.

Throughout his Horizonte interview, Allen asserted no one had made allegations about Arpaio's using traffic stops as an excuse to enforce immigration law, as if he'd had his head up his backside (or Arpaio's) since he took over as Sand Land's immigration czar. Neither ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility nor the U.S. Attorney for Arizona had received such complaints, he repeated.

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