Many would like to believe that even the most guileful and nefarious of individuals are capable of compassion, particularly toward the weakest among us.
Sadly, human behavior argues otherwise. To rationalize away the sufferings of others is a fairly easy mental trick, and when the payoff for doing so is political power, pangs of conscience are like pinpricks, at best.
So I'd argue that if Sheriff Joe Arpaio or President Barack Obama had been around Phoenix's Cesar Chavez Plaza Friday afternoon for a rally of moms and kids sponsored by the local human rights group Puente, the sight would not have moved them to reconsider their respective policies toward the undocumented.
Democrats and lefties out there might argue that Obama is capable of more compassion than our almost-octogenarian sheriff. I'd disagree. If you judge simply by the amount of human suffering each man has caused, Obama's ill deeds far outweigh Sheriff Joe's.
After all, Arpaio cannot claim to have deported more than 1 million souls, like Obama. In fact, Arpaio hasn't deported anyone. He's turned many over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but ICE decides whether to cut those mothers, daughters, fathers, sons and grandparents loose, keep them in prison-like detention facilities, or give them a one-way ride to their countries of origin.
No doubt, Arpaio's policy decisions regarding the undocumented have been hurtful. His raids and sweeps targeting Hispanics have spread fear and inflamed nativist sentiment in this state.
And Sheriff Joe has no special sympathy for mothers or their offspring. One need only look to examples of shackled pregnant women in MCSO custody, or mothers with their arms or jaws broken by MCSO goons for supporting evidence of that statement.
Yet, President Obama's human rights violations dwarf those of Arpaio, who is a piker by comparison to our supposedly progressive, immigration reform-supporting POTUS. ICE recently initiated a plan to rev up apprehensions, because they've fallen off, due in part to the fact the U.S. is now at a net zero when it comes to illegal immigration.
For most of the estimated 1.2 million-plus deported by Obama, there are whole families that have been disrupted and torn asunder, children whose parents don't come home at night, men or women whose spouses disappear into ICE's prison matrix, mothers and fathers whose daughters and sons are taken from them.
Moreover, the Obama administration's efforts to rein in Arpaio have been paltry and inadequate. Indeed, the administration previously facilitated Arpaio by allowing him to keep his 287(g)-trained officers, ending that grant of federal immigration power slowly, first in the field in 2009, then in late 2011 suspending 287(g) in the jails.
No great loss for the Obama-ites, though. See, the feds have this thing called Secure Communities, an Orwellian program that's supposed to check the immigration status of everyone who is booked into jail.
In practice, Latinos receive more scrutiny. And in many cases, they have been arrested on bogus charges by local cops just so they can be processed through S-Comm, and then handed over to ICE.
This doesn't mean that I don't want Arpaio to fall from power. Of course I do.
But, as I watched the Puente volunteers help their children make signs, color in butterfly wings, and write messages on white balloons that were later released near Arpaio's executive offices at Phoenix's Wells Fargo Building, I was forced to reflect on the fact that even if Arpaio is replaced by a kinder, gentler lawman in November, the Obama administration's policy of mass deportations likely will continue.
At yesterday's demonstration, the focus was on both Obama and Arpaio. Mothers rose, one by one, to speak about how they would no longer live in fear, even if they lack the documents to remain in the U.S.
Brave sentiments, considering the dangers they and their little ones face.
The children then led a march around the Wells Fargo tower, and released their balloons, while chanting, "Don't separate our families."
Touching moment. I just wish I could believe that Obama cares about these children and will do something to ease the misery index he and his administration have spent four years exacerbating.
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Obama is already on record for lying to his supporters about immigration, for promising that there would be a push for comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, a push that's never materialized.
You see, Arpaio and Obama share a couple of things in common. Each of them wants to be re-elected this year, and each is using the immigration issue to achieve this goal: Arpaio, by appealing to hate, bigotry and nativism on a local level; Obama by playing both ends of the immigration debate against the middle, nationally.
For all those who revile Arpaio, keep in mind that Obama has been a far greater enemy to the undocumented and their children than Arpaio has the power to be.
Recently, one Latino Republican strategist declared that Obama is "worse than Arpaio" on immigration. Though the statement is obviously self-serving, it is nevertheless one with which I cannot disagree.