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U.S. House 287(g) Hearings: First Round of Witnesses Includes U.S. Citizen, Who - Along With his Legal Resident Father - Was Harassed by Joe Arpaio's Men

Avondale, Arizona, resident Julio Mora was the first witness for the House Judiciary Committee after it came back from it's break for voting. Mora is a U.S. citizen. His father is a permanent legal resident. Mora was driving his father to work at HMI Landscaping in Phoenix, when his car was stopped more than 100 yards from the business. They were detained, zip-tied, and made to wait for three hours while their papers were gone through.

During their detention, Mora's father, who is diabetic, was not allowed to use the restroom, and was only allowed to urinate next to a car. Mora, too, had to use the restroom. He was accompanied by deputies, still zip-tied. He had to urinate with his hands bound in front of him.

"`What's the matter, you can't find it?'" he said the deputies asked him, as he fumbled.

"I didn't understand why they trapped us like that," Mora wondered to the committee. "They patted us down and tied our hands together with zip ties, like we were criminals."

Next up was the emotional testimony of Antonio Ramirez, a Maryland community activist, who held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and declared that he would die for this country, that he believes in this country, and that he wants to be treated like any other person legally in the United States, instead of being singled out for scrutiny.

Following Ramirez, came Professor Deborah Weissman, of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill law school, who helped author a comprehensive study of the 287(g) program in North Carolina. The study concluded that the 287(g) program is fatally flawed, and should be ended. She spoke of more than one redneck sheriff in the Tar Heel State who has made racist comments and threats regarding Mexicans that, she says, Joe Arpaio wouldn't say on his worst day. She also gave the example of a university professor who was racially profiled because he was Hispanic.

Ray Tranchant then gave his sad testimony. His daughter and her best friend were killed by a drunken driver who was also an illegal immigrant.

"But their lives ended suddenly and unnecessarily when a drunken illegal immigrant hit them at more than 70 miles an hour," Trenchant informed the committee. "Alfredo Ramos, whose blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit, didn't see the girls' car or the red light and couldn't because of his intoxication. The crash killed Tessa and Ali instantly. Alfredo Ramos walked away unhurt."

New York Representative Jerrold Nadler questioned Mora about MCSO deputies wearing ski masks at the February HMI raid, and whether they told him and his dad that there was a raid going on. He asked Mora what he thought about police/law enforcement now.

Mora said immigrants, like his father, just want to work and be treated equally. As for the MCSO, Mora said deputies did not identify themselves properly.

Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, asked Ramirez what he would say to Trenchant, who lost his daughter because of an undocumented migrant. Ramirez answered that he knew what it was like to lose a loved one, but that he was not a criminal.

Congressman King stated that he was a wholehearted supporter of 287(g), and that if that drunk driver had been deported before driving drunk, Trenchant's teenage daughter would be alive.

King later grilled Mora, asking him if his embarassment during his arrest trumped Trenchant's loss. Mora said he was sorry for Trenchant's loss, despite the congressman's asking him to compare completely different circumstances. Mora said he wants local police to enforce the law, but "be smart about it."

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King also insinuated that Mora's dad should have informed authorities about the undocumented people he was working with at HMI.

Illinois Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez pointed out that the Irish and Italians were labeled as bringing crime to this country, just as Mexicans and other Latinos are now. He also attacked King's suggestion that Mora or his father should be checking people's immigration status at work.

The next panel includes Mesa Police Chief and Arpaio-foe George Gascon, so stay tuned. 

(Phoenix New Times' special reports section on Joe Arpaio has all the background on Maricopa County's sheriff.)

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