Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Secret Immigration File: Rants, Threats, and Hate Site Literature

During Sheriff Joe Arpaio's December deposition in the ongoing racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres vs. Arpaio, the sheriff revealed that he had kept a personal file on immigration-related matters, which up until then had not been turned over to the plaintiffs' lawyers in the case.

This, even though David Bodney, chief counsel for the plaintiffs, had repeatedly sought all immigration-related files from the sheriff's office. Arpaio agreed during the deposition to hand a copy over to Bodney.

The file, which I reviewed recently via a public records request, was over 800 pages long, and was made up of clippings, hand-written notes, and press releases dealing with Arpaio's transformation of the MCSO into an immigration enforcement agency. Most of the documents date from 2006 to the present.

There were numerous New Times pieces in the file, such as Village Voice Media editor Michael Lacey's cover story "The Pink Negro," as well as my cover story, "Ja, Joe!," which detailed the sheriff's links to wingnuts and nativists, and his fan base among neo-Nazis.

There were also several of my Bird columns and Feathered Bastard blog items, most of them covering Arpaio's continuing embrace of nativist extremism.

Like you needed more proof of Arpaio's fiddling with the far right, the file included articles from the hate Web site VDARE.com, supposedly named after Virginia Dare, the first white baby born in the New World.

One VDARE.com article in particular praised Arpaio's anti-immigrant stance as a foil for President Barack Obama's "stealth amnesty," as the writer called it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted that VDARE.com "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites." Finding tracts from this site in the file of the chief law enforcement officer of our county is unusually disturbing, particularly as the articles laud him.

Along with the hate literature, there's a long legal opinion from Arpaio's nativist attorney Kris Kobach, who's been hired by the sheriff's office at the rate of $300 per hour to train MCSO gendarmes in immigration law.

There's also a legal opinion from County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio's soon-to-be-former fellow Sith Lord, offering a rationale for the legality of Arpaio's anti-immigrant sweeps.

The handwritten notes in the file seem to be from Arpaio himself, considering they are penned in the first person.

One decries a pinata-bash, with Arpaio as one of the pinatas, as sending the message that it's OK "to beat a [law enforcement] official with sticks."

Another note fumes at a comparison between Arpaio's anti-immigrant hotline to Nazi Germany's hunt of the Jews, calling it "deflamatory [sic]." The sheriff wrote that the analogy places "me and my family in danger."

Yet another rages against Mayor Phil Gordon's "secret political agenda" in denouncing Arpaio's ties to extremists, and mentions the influence of Arizona ADL regional director Bill Straus, who has publicly stated that Arpaio needs to separate himself from his far-right supporters.

Included is a phone message from Straus, informing Arpaio that he will not participate in a MCSO press conference, saying there's "no need for ADL to join you in making a statement if you chose to do so."

Straus confirmed to me that he had been contacted by Arpaio's office, which sought him to be present at a press conference where Arpaio would have defended himself against allegations made by the Mayor and New Times regarding his extremist backers.

The local ADL head declined Joe's invite. Straus was later mentioned by Arpaio's Chief Deputy David Hendershott in his Melendres deposition as part of a "conspiracy" against the sheriff that led all the way up the ladder to the Obama White House.

Joe-foe and pro-immigration advocate Elias Bermudez comes up as well. One typewritten note suggests Bermudez could be prosecuted after he appeared on a local right-wing radio talk show, where host Darrell Ankarlo supposedly asked Bermudez about people calling in false or prank reports.

Bermudez stated that this was "not a bad idea," according to the note. But that was enough for it to be suggested that Bermudez be charged with "interfering with government operations."

The activist garnered the disapproval of many callers to Arpaio's office, most of whom gave the sheriff addaboys, and encouraged him to stand tall against illegal immigrants.

You may recall that back in 2007, Bermudez was being criticized for mass e-mailing a satirical image of Arpaio in a Klan robe, holding aloft a noose. Some callers suggested Bermudez be jailed or sued for defamation of character.

One went farther, saying, "I would shoot Bermudez if I could get away with it."

There's no indication of whether or not the threat was investigated by the MCSO.

Among the other contents of the file are: a petition circulated by nativist extremist Buffalo Rick Galeener that lent Arpaio the casus belli for his infamous sweep of Cave Creek and Bell Roads; a list of political rival Dan Saban's supporters; a note from Arpaio listing the many interviews he's conducted with various news outlets; and notes documenting a phone conversation with Arizona ICE honcho Matt Allen.

The Allen note, dated July 25, 2009, involved an incident where Arpaio taped ICE agents and played them for the media.

During the phone call, according to the scrawled record of it in the file, Allen accused Arpaio of abrogating his 287(g) agreement with ICE. The agreement allowed Arpaio's deputies to interrogate suspects regarding their residency status. (Arpaio's 287(g) street authority was jerked later that same year.)

Arpaio told Allen, regarding a change in ICE policy at the time to refuse noncriminal aliens from MCSO's sweeps, that, "This is all political. He seemed to agree."

Interestingly, Allen wondered if Arpaio was taping the confab. Arpaio said no, though the question itself indicates the level of distrust between MCSO and the feds.

Lastly, one of the oddest items in the file is an essay penned by a local student at Herrra Elementary School in Phoenix, which appeared in the school's 2007-2008 yearbook. The essay slights Arpaio, asking, "Do I want people to hate me like the KKK or Joe Arpaio or a thug?"

There's something creepy about seeing the kid's essay in Joe's file. Was Arpaio reveling in his infamy among grade-school kids, or keeping tabs on a newspaper column writer of the future?

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