Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Asks Andrew Thomas for Legal Opinion; Russell Pearce Calls for Special Session To Pass Anti-Mexican Jim Crow Laws

This comedy regarding Joe Arpaio's supposed legal authority to question people on the street about their immigration status is reaching epic proportions, like some Monty Python sketch gone awry. Our geriatric top gendarme recently told Channel 12 News that he will seek a legal opinion on whether or not he has 287(g) authority without having 287(g) authority.

(Confused? Don't worry. So is he.)

"We're going to ask for an official, official decision [sic] on this federal law," Arpaio told reporter Brahm Resnik, "whether law enforcement can get involved -- uh -- you know, supporting that law and arresting those that are here illegally. I will ask for an opinion very soon, and I think it will put everything to rest, depending on what the decision is."

"Don't you think you should have done that before the sweep this weekend?" asked Resnik. "That way, everyone would know what your authority is."

"I know what my authority is," shot back Arpaio.

Er, then why ask for this big legal opinion? I'll tell you why. Because Arpaio needs to pull a lame CYA move after asserting he has the right to stop, question and arrest people whom he suspects of being in the country illegally based on appearance. (This is generally known as "racial profiling" in civilized parts of the country.) Remember last night, Channel 5 reported that Joe said his deputies can stop you if "you look like you just came from Mexico."

Now Arpaio really looks like a boob. Local TV journos are openly mocking him. Fox 10 followed the Channel 5 story, stating in a subhead that the "sheriff's foot-in-mouth quote is questionable."

Not only does Arpaio have zero legal authority to racial-profile, as the courts have held this practice to be unconstitutional, his deputies have no federal authority to question persons about their immigration status.

ICE head John Morton plainly stated last week, "The only explicit grant of federal law [would be] under 287(g) and the task force." No 287(g)? No authority. As for Arpaio's powers under state law, he would have to have this thing called "probable cause," whether in the case of human smuggling, employer sanctions, or whatever.

So from whom is Arpaio going to ask for an opinion? Try not to erupt in guffaws: County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the man Joe helped get re-elected in 2008 by running with Thomas as a team.

Save for one exception -- when Thomas said he could not support segregating alleged illegals into their own Tent City -- Thomas has been Arpaio's stalwart ally. Even that whole segregation stand was based on a technicality. Otherwise, Thomas has been Arpaio's personal bichon frise.

Therefore, expect Thomas to pony up some bogus, far-right interpretation giving Arpaio his personal blank check to stop Latinos and ask them if they're documented. This mirrors the opinion Thomas issued regarding the human smuggling law, which allows individuals to be charged with conspiracy to smuggle themselves into the country.

And if Joe's charade wasn't bad enough, neo-Nazi hugger and state Senator Russell Pearce is now asking Gov. Jan Brewer for a special session of the legislature to deal with immigration, likely so Pearce can try to pass any or all of the series of Mexican Jim Crow laws he's attempted to ram through before. Of course, Arpaio and Thomas are scheduled to be present at the press conference tomorrow for this neo-Apartheid summit demanding that Governor Brewer kowtow to anti-Latino prejudice. Think things couldn't get any worse? Think again.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons