Janet Napolitano Pulls a Switcheroo on the Pro-Immigrant Crowd, Arpaio Scores a Latina Judge's Recusal, plus Swastikas in Fountain Hills

287(G) BOOS

You'd have to mine Davy Jones' locker to discover the true depth of our Democratic ex-governor's duplicity over the federal government's 287(g) program, the new rules for which were announced with great fanfare by Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security two weeks ago.

The press was informed that the DHS was instituting a brand-spankin'-new, standardized memorandum of agreement, a sort of contract governing the training of beat cops to enforce federal immigration law. All 66 localities that already had memorandums with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under the jurisdiction of the DHS, would have to sign new contracts. Homeland Security also announced the expansion of the program, with 11 new law enforcement agencies signed to the new memorandums.

Homeland Security offered up a side-by-side analysis of the new and old memorandums, giving everyone the distinct impression that bad actors, such as our own Sheriff Joe Arpaio, would be reined in under the novel dictates.

Arpaio's high-profile abuses of the program since he joined it in 2007 were ignored: You know, immigrant moms torn from their tots; women who ended up with a broken arm or jaw after being coerced by one or more of Arpaio's 160 287(g)-trained thugs; unconstitutional sweeps that sowed fear in Hispanic neighborhoods and brought on a federal civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff because of his racial-profiling ways.

All such deeds would be forgiven and forgotten by Homeland Security if Arpaio were to sign anew on the line that is dotted.

Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler explained to me from D.C. that the new memorandums would target "criminal aliens," with prioritization given to rapists, killers, and drug dealers. You know, instead of the landscapers and car-washers the MCSO's used to collaring. As for the sweeps, Chandler suggested that if Arpaio wanted to use his 287(g) authority in a sweep or worksite raid, an "ICE supervisor" would have to approve "a copy of the operation plan."

The department's press release stated that arresting someone on a bogus charge — as is often done by the MCSO — for the actual purpose of turning over the warm body to ICE would be discouraged.

"To address concerns that individuals may be arrested for minor offenses as a guise to initiate removal proceedings," reads Homeland Security news release, "the new agreement explains that participating local law enforcement agencies are required to pursue all criminal charges that originally caused the offender to be taken into custody."

Nationally and locally, journos reported that the new memorandum could crimp Arpaio's style. Arpaio played along, kvetching — but not too loudly or long — that the new rules were aimed at him and would mean fewer illegals pulled in by his gendarmes. He referred to the new memorandum as "sugar-coated amnesty."

But Arpaio didn't walk away from the 287(g) program. Rather, he said the Sheriff's Office would review the changes. According to Homeland Security, he has 90 days to do so. Even before the actual boilerplate of the memorandum was released, the expectation at ICE was that Arpaio would comply. After all, Arpaio knows how to stretch a loophole 'til it bursts, noted one ICE guy I know And even with (possibly) increased federal oversight, Arpaio could still conduct sweeps under state law.

Notably, Homeland Security did not release the language of the new memorandum until a full week after its press release announcing the expansion and revision of the 287(g) program. The American Civil Liberties Union had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get Homeland Security to produce the goods, and when the goods were got and passed around, it was immediately apparent to everyone in the immigrant-rights crowd that they'd been had. The ACLU issued a searing indictment of the new memorandum, bemoaning the government's mainly "cosmetic" changes.

"Contrary to [the] announcement, the new 287(g) memorandum of agreement is not substantially different from the Bush administration's memorandum, observed ACLU legislative counsel Joanne Lin, "including the much-abused agreement currently in place in Maricopa County, Arizona."

Mimicking Homeland Security's side-by-side PR doc, the ACLU issued its own side-by-side analysis, contrasting what Homeland Security said the new memorandum established with reality. Indeed, laying down the new and old memorandums and reading them together is a little like comparing "new and improved" coffee with its old version and finding out that what's new about it is less coffee in the can.

In fact, the new agreement expands the powers of 287(g) officers, lessens the amount of experience a 287(g)-man (or -woman) should have (from two years of law enforcement experience to one), and maintains vague requirements for data collection.

Infuriatingly, despite President Barack Obama's call for openness and transparency in government, the memorandum actually states that documents resulting from the partnership between ICE and locals "shall not be considered public records."

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