CHICKENS COMING HOME?
Call it Sal Reza's Long March: the persistent pressure the Phoenix civil rights leader has applied to Wells Fargo to oust Sheriff Joe Arpaio from his 18th- and 19th-floor roosts in the pricey, executive office building in downtown Phoenix.
When Reza began the campaign in late 2008, presenting an "eviction" notice to Wells Fargo honchos and maintaining a Monday-through-Friday midday vigil outside 100 West Washington Street, many of his fellow Latino activists thought he'd gone bonkers.
Even I compared him to Don Quixote at the time.
For more than a year and a half, Reza's Puente group hammered Arpaio with protests involving drums, signs likening Arpaio to Benito Mussolini, demonstrators wearing papier-mâché Arpaio heads, and sometimes mariachis. Once, Wells Fargo even became the destination for a children's march to its doorstep, protesting Arpaio's jailing of their undocumented moms and dads.
But now the idea of forcing Arpaio from his lair, which costs Maricopa County taxpayers $675K a year in rent, is no longer laughable. Indeed, my colleague Ray Stern recently ferreted out news of a letter to the county from Wells Fargo, asking the sheriff to skedaddle before September 2013, when the extension to the original lease is up.
According to Stern, Wells Fargo told county officials that they want the floors for their own purposes. The MCSO's already started hunting for new digs.
After learning that Arpaio & Co. had 'til 2013 to amscray, Reza referred to it as a "partial victory." He ascribed Wells Fargo's willingness to waive penalties and notice requirements as a way of helping Arpaio save face.
"They're trying to do it in an elegant way," said Reza. "But there's no elegant way of getting him out."
Reza predicted things will only get worse for Wells Fargo, publicity-wise, the longer Sheriff Joe remains.
"Wells Fargo knows we're not going to quit," insisted Reza. "And they know that every time he has a news conference, Arpaio and Wells Fargo are tied together."
Though I give Reza his props — after all, he's primarily responsible, along with his allies at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, for putting more than 10,000 people in the street on January 16 for the most recent anti-Arpaio march in Phoenix — there may have been another factor at play in Wells Fargo's decision.
In early December, the MCSO raided the community development group Chicanos por la Causa, supposedly seeking info on loans CPLC had made to Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a persistent critic of the sheriff's, his abuses of power, and his racial-profiling ways.
About 20 sheriff's deputies made off with seven hard drives, including a backup of CPLC's statewide e-mail system, in what amounted to a fishing expedition beyond the already dubious investigation of Wilcox.
The day after the raid, CPLC President and CEO Edmundo Hidalgo blasted the MCSO raid as beyond the scope of the warrant presented. It just so happens that Hidalgo is a former Wells Fargo executive. At Wells Fargo, Hidalgo was a vice president and the national spokesman for the company's Latino Loan Program.
I was unable to reach Hidalgo for a comment, but a CPLC flack, who declined to be quoted, insisted that — to her knowledge — CPLC had not put any pressure on Wells Fargo to kick Arpaio to the curb.
Perhaps CPLC didn't have to. As Wells Fargo openly vies for Latino customers, and as Arpaio has become (in his own words) the "poster boy" for the racial profiling of Hispanics, severing all connections between the bank and the man could be good for business.
Wells Fargo, for its part, has declined to explain its reasons for asking Arpaio to leave. Such an explanation is unnecessary. The action speaks for itself.
WITNESS TO BRUTALITY
With great annoyance I recently watched Immigration and Customs Enforcement honcho John Morton's videotaped remarks to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. There, on January 25, the nation's top immigration cop talked of the fact that he was born in Scotland, that his mother is a legal permanent resident, and that he's staking his legacy at ICE on detention reform.
The source of my skepticism is twofold: Morton's recent defense of ICE's continued partnership with Sheriff Joe in his county jails; and the revelations of recent documents and video released by the MCSO in the case of Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, a Hispanic housewife whose arm was broken while in MCSO custody.
For those who may not recall my past reports concerning Garcia-Martinez, she was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department on March 6, 2009, after a cop tried to issue her a warning for putting up yard-sale signs.
The 5-foot-something 46-year-old, who's been in the United States illegally for decades, had an expired California ID and a matricula card from the Mexican consulate on her. Because of a small discrepancy between the two IDs, Phoenix PD arrested the mother of three on suspicion of forgery.
Law dogs at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office — not known as pikers when it comes to pursuing the undocumented — declined to prosecute because there was "no reasonable likelihood of conviction."
As Garcia-Martinez was in MCSO custody with an immigration hold on her, there was nothing left to do but transfer her to ICE.
But before I continue to the breaking of Garcia-Martinez's left elbow, let me address a shibboleth Morton blathered when he spoke to the Arizona Republic, defending the fact that ICE maintains a 287(g) agreement with Arpaio's jails, with 287(g)-trained MCSO detention officers and actual ICE agents nearby to help process the warm bodies.
"Sixty-nine percent of the people we receive in Maricopa County have been convicted of Level One and Level Two offenses, which are serious felony offenses, drug trafficking, assaults, rape," Morton told the Rep's editorial satraps.
When I pressed ICE flack Vinnie Picard on details regarding these stats, the info he gave me showed that not all of those whom Morton's talking about have been convicted. According to Picard, the stats, which cover October 1, 2009, to January 19, 2010, include individuals with prior convictions and those with current charges.
Secondly, those "referred" to ICE — in the parlance of the agency — by the MCSO break down this way: Level One offenses, 17.3 percent; Level Two, 51.4 percent; Level Three, 9.4 percent; and the remainder, those with no criminal records or who've not been included because of technical errors. Level One includes murder, rape, drugs, robbery — all the really bad stuff. Level Two includes less-bad stuff such as fraud, arson, embezzlement, burglary, larceny, and . . . forgery.
And, yes, the Arizona statute under which Garcia-Martinez was originally charged and held non-bondable — presenting a forged instrument, a class-four felony in Arizona — is included in the Level Two offenses Morton was speaking of in the Republic.
So if Garcia-Martinez had been arrested a later in the year, she would have been lumped into those "69 percent" of heinous criminals Morton was using to justify his deal with Sheriff Joe to maintain federal access to Arpaio's gulags.
Point being, Morton's statement was wildly inaccurate.
Garcia-Martinez has no prior convictions. She's an ordinary woman who happens to be in the country sans documents. Basically, she's the same as Morton's own mom, minus the green card.
I'm guessing Morton's ma was never brutalized by six or seven MCSO thugs as they attempted to get her fingerprint on ICE paperwork. The internal investigation and video released by the MCSO last week leaves little doubt that Garcia-Martinez was injured as MCSO detention officers — some of them 287(g)-trained gendarmes — held her down, bruised her, and busted her elbow.
The cruel irony is that, according to ICE spokesman Picard, a fingerprint (in lieu of a signature) is not required on the ICE paperwork in question. Garcia-Martinez already had given her fingerprints to the MCSO during the booking process.
According to the MCSO, David Barnert, an ICE agent working in the Lower Buckeye Jail, told MCSO detention officers on March 11 that even if Garcia-Martinez did not want to sign the paperwork, her fingerprint was required. MCSO employees say Barnert gave them the okay to force her fingerprint.
Barnert tells a different story. In an internal ICE memorandum, he claims he informed 287(g)-trained MCSO Officer A. Reese that he "felt uncomfortable fingerprinting a female subject who did not want to be fingerprinted." Barnert says he was surprised when he learned that Reese and others had forced the Garcia-Martinez fingerprint.
What's disturbing about Barnert's statement is that he does seem to believe that a fingerprint was necessary, despite spokesman Picard's insistence that a fingerprint wasn't required, and that all an ICE or 287(g) officer needed to do was note on the forms that the individual "refused to sign."
Reese admitted to investigators that he "used a rear wristlock to control the movement of Garcia-Martinez's left arm." Reese also related that he "maintained the wristlock on Garcia-Martinez when she dropped to the ground and held it while the officers were attempting to fingerprint her." (Italics are mine.)
After she was released, Garcia-Martinez told ICE investigators she didn't know what the form was for, as it was in English. She also claimed she told one ICE agent who approached her afterward that she'd been hurt by the MCSO officers. And she maintained that an ICE officer threatened her with getting jumped again if she did not put her fingerprint on a form that was omitted. She complied.
Throughout the MCSO investigation, officers state that Garcia-Martinez never told them she was injured, as if that absolves them of breaking her arm. However, silent security video released by the MCSO shows Garcia-Martinez's using her sweater as a makeshift sling for her left arm. Even the MCSO's investigator makes note of this in his report.
There is no video from the room where Garcia-Martinez was force-fingerprinted. But the video provided does show her being taken to the fingerprint room, surrounded by a pack of MCSO goons.
Later, they led her from the room and placed her in a holding cell. Then, several MCSO officers and at least one ICE agent entered her cell and scored another fingerprint. Then Garcia-Martinez was shuttled from cell to cell, holding her injured left arm.
After Garcia-Martinez was transferred to ICE custody, ICE learned of her injuries through her lawyer. ICE photographed the bruises on her leg, arms, and back. They took her to St. Joseph's Hospital, where physicians examined her and put her arm in a cast.
Ultimately, ICE released Garcia-Martinez on her own recognizance.
Garcia-Martinez is represented in pending civil litigation by Phoenix attorney Danny Ortega, who has filed a $300,000 notice of claim against the county. Ortega told me his client's arm still bothers her, almost a year after it was broken. He plans to file a lawsuit in Superior Court.
I hope Garcia-Martinez gets every penny coming to her for the pain and suffering she's endured at the hands of federally trained MCSO gendarmes. The MCSO's investigators concluded that Garcia-Martinez's claims were "unfounded," though the evidence in the MCSO's report belies this conclusion.
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Last year, ICE suspended Sheriff Arpaio's 287(g) street authority but allowed him to keep 287(g) in his vast incarceration complex, where about 60 287(g)-trained MCSO officers continue to enforce federal immigration law. ICE agents work out of the jails, as well, despite the numerous, documented human rights abuses therein.
There are cases of mothers with busted jaws and pregnant women shackled — not to mention the corpses coughed up from Arpaio's facilities with disturbing regularity.
So pardon my peevishness at John Morton's contention that he's serious about detention reform. Unless Morton ends the 287(g) jails agreement with Arpaio immediately, his claims of wanting to reform the system are as hollow as an empty Mason jar.
As for his tales about his green-card holding parental unit, spare me. Until Morton walks the talk, he's just another bureaucrat — one with the blood and broken bones of immigrants beneath his fingernails.