Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Makes Moolah off Melendres, Promises to "Never Back Down"

Remember the fable about the frog who does a scorpion a solid by giving him ride on his back across a river? In it, the scorpion promises not to sting the frog, observing that they would both drown if he did.

So when the scorpion stings the frog midway across the river, the frog wonders why, as they both begin to sink.

"Because it's my nature," says the scorpion.

Maricopa County's scorpion with a badge, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is opposed to an independent monitor, and many of the other proposed conditions in Melendres v. Arpaio, the big civil rights lawsuit he lost in May, when federal Judge G. Murray Snow found the sheriff's office guilty of racial profiling.

Arpaio's attorney Tim Casey has assured the media that the sheriff "must comply" with whatever requirements are deemed necessary by Snow in Melendres, insisting that recent negotiations with the ACLU over proposed outcomes were done "in good faith," despite the plethora of objections made by Casey in a report submitted to Snow last week.

But while Casey was negotiating, um, "in good faith," Arpaio apparently was exploiting Melendres to put cash in his campaign kitty for 2016, sounding a note of defiance in the process.

See Also: Joe Arpaio, Serial Racist, Says No to Melendres Monitor, But Agrees Deputies Need Re-Training

In a purported fundraising letter for Arpaio's re-election committee dated August 6, Arpaio speaks out of both sides of his mouth on Melendres, vowing to continue his crusade against illegal immigration, and only reluctantly saying he will go along with Judge Snow.

First he regurgitates some major nativist shibboleths, like how illegal immigrants are able to get all this free stuff from the government. Which is baloney, because illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare and other government benefits.

Read Joe Arpaio's fundraising letter, making money off Melendres.

After Arpaio sets up this straw man, he knocks it down. He tells readers, if they agree that this non-existent gravy train for illegals is an outrage, then, "I need you to stand up and show your support right now."

You know, by sending cash to Joe, who will single-handedly pursue the undocumented.

"I will never back down -- not even one inch -- when it comes to doing the job I was elected to do," the letter states. "I will continue enforcing all the state criminal laws on the books no matter what the consequences."

See, Judge Snow barred Arpaio from enforcing federal criminal immigration laws, not state laws. Though, if Arpaio attempts to use state law as a cover for racial profiling Latino drivers, that would certainly run afoul of Snow's order.

Indeed, this is exactly why Arpaio's boys in beige got in trouble: they used Arizona statutes as a pretext during MCSO sweeps to stop Hispanic motorists and inquire about their immigration status.

The way Arpaio tells it, Judge Snow's decision in Melendres was the punishment he received for enforcing the "criminal laws" of Arizona.

"A federal judge recently ruled my office engaged in `racial profiling,'" he gripes. "The lawsuit was filed by open borders activists led by the ultra-liberal ACLU."

Arpaio blames U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for giving the MCSO the wrong training as part of the 287(g) program.

That's essentially an admission of guilt. If you rob a bank because someone told you to rob a bank, you still robbed a bank.

Arpaio fails to mention that in 2009 ICE jerked his 287(g) street agreement, which gave some of his officers immigration enforcement powers.

At the time, Arpaio declared that he would still enforce federal immigration law, even without 287(g). He cited a non-existent federal statute that one of his flunkies found on a nativist website. Then he hired anti-immigration attorney Kris Kobach to train all his deputies in immigration enforcement.

But in this recent fundraising letter, likely written by Arpaio's campaign guru Chad Willems, Arpaio's defiance is hedged by his need to placate the court.

In one paragraph, he mentions that he's appealing Snow's decision, saying, "It's a decision I don't agree with, but the judge has ruled, and I will abide by the decision until it is reversed by a higher court."

In another paragraph, in relation to a separate civil rights suit brought against him by the DOJ, he derides the idea of there being a monitor to ensure he abides by the decision of the judge.

"Ultimately, they want to have a `federal monitor' in my office looking over my shoulder, making everything I do politically correct," Arpaio snarls. "I was elected by the people and I won't stand for it."

So which is it? Will Arpaio accept a monitor that Snow has already said is likely, or will he openly disobey a federal judge?

A third path is more in Arpaio's "nature": Pretend to play along with Judge Snow, while winking at the court's commands, and doing everything to evade them.

You know, kind of like Tim Casey telling Judge Snow that, "The MCSO is out of the federal immigration enforcement business," and then Arpaio reviving the roundups of brown people through worksite raids.

I was sent this letter via a third party. I emailed both Casey and Willems, seeking confirmation and comment. I also called each man twice, leaving voice mail messages.

They have not responded. But based on the style of the letter, the letterhead and so forth, it appears legit. Also, someone else has posted a letter like this one on Scribd.

The ACLU was less reticent about commenting. After I emailed him a copy of the letter, ACLU attorney Dan Pochoda responded with the following statement on behalf of counsel in the case:

"The Sheriff's use of the Court's order to raise campaign money sends the wrong message about the Sheriff's willingness or ability on his own to make the reforms that are needed to avoid future violations of the kind that the court has found."

Actually, I think Arpaio & Co. are sending a very accurate message to Judge Snow through this letter.

That is, if Snow trusts the MCSO, Casey, and Arpaio to comply willingly, he should expect to get stung.

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