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Game of Duck and Dodge on the Witness Stand Shows that Even Joe Arpaio Knows His Record is Toxic

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Wall to Wall Coverage of Trial in Spanish-Language Media Shines Spotlight on GOP Anti-Immigration Extremism

When the notorious anti-Latino and anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio took the witness stand at this week’s civil rights trial in Phoenix, he chose to play a game of duck and dodge, pinning responsibility for his offensive remarks and actions on his deputies and even the ghostwriter of his autobiography.

Unfortunately for him and for the Republican Party that he represents, Arpaio’s real record is well-known among immigrant and Latino voters.  Due to significant coverage in national and local Spanish language media over several years, Latinos are well aware of Arpaio’s abuses and exploits.  The civil rights case being heard this week is no exception: major media sources across the nation are reporting on Arpaio’s behavior nightly.  It doesn’t look good for him, or the GOP, whose major candidates—including Romney–often kiss the ring of Arpaio and seek his endorsement.

Arpaio, well-known for engaging in abusive and humiliating practices like forcing his inmates to wear pink underwear, recalled his experience of meeting then-Governor Romney in 2008: “The first time I met the governor at a private meeting, first thing he said was ‘How’s the pink underwear doing?'” Arpaio emphatically embraced Mitt Romney during the candidate’s 2008 run, and nearly every GOP candidate courted Arpaio for his endorsement in the 2012 Republican primary.

As Election Day draws closer, it’s important to note what many Latino voters are reading and hearing as the Arpaio saga continues.  Major Spanish-language television networks such as Telemundo and Univisión, and print outlets like La Opinión, have been closely following the trial as it twists and turns.  Here’s a snapshot of news reaching the Spanish-speaking community this week:

  • EFE: Sheriff Arpaio responds to accusations of racial profiling: “The sheriff, who is seeking re-election next November, had to explain his statements during the press conference in 2007 in which he assured that his agency ‘goes against illegals first, then after crime.’ ‘The five plaintiffs, all of them of Hispanic descent and citizens or legal residents of the United States, are not seeking monetary compensation, just changes to the system in Arpaio’s office. The sheriff is also facing a second lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice for the same accusations: racial profiling practices against Hispanics. In the afternoon as the testimonies continued inside the court, four protesters were detained by police agents for obstructing the street.  The streets close to the court were closed by 30 police units and a helicopter, as protesters screamed ‘arrest Arpaio, not people.” (translation by America’s Voice)
  • Telemundo: “Outside the court house the protests were only heating up. The plaintiffs’ attorneys bombarded Joe Arpaio with accusations of discrimination and racial profiling. ‘We’ve shown what he has personally said about the use of racial profiling.  We presented videos, press conferences, interviews,’ said one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Arpaio spent the entire time defending himself and distancing himself from his own past.  Other than Arpaio, the most potentially devastating testimony was one of his agents’ Luis Di Pietro. The judge asked him to clarify if he believes that the majority of day laborers are undocumented. The officer responded, yes.  Outside the court support for the sheriff was low.” (translation by America’s Voice)
  • La Opinión Editorial: Trying Sheriff Arpaio: “Obviously, what is at stake here are not only a verdict against Arpaio and possible changes in the way police work is carried out in Maricopa County. The attorneys are trying to prove that when the limits between federal work and the work of local law enforcement are not respected, abuses happen and the Constitution is violated.  This lawsuit, within the context of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Arizona law that left standing the provision that requires local police to verify the immigration status of those detained under suspicion of a crime, could serve as additional evidence that this is not the way to proceed and one more argument against what still remains of SB 1070.”
  • Univision: “It’s not every day that Sheriff Arpaio from Arizona has to show up in court and defend himself against the accusations of racial profiling and discrimination against him. The same man that has arrested so many Hispanic immigrants is now facing justice. The polemic Sheriff Joe Arpaio finally got his day in court. He sat in the defendants’ box in front of the federal judge.  Arpaio is accused of instituting a culture of discrimination against Hispanics inside the Maricopa Sheriff’s office.  Today the sheriff’s aggressive words against undocumented immigration in his famous press conferences were heard inside the court. With these, his accusers tried to prove with his own words that for the Sheriff being Mexican, a day laborer, and having brown skin, equals being undocumented and therefore provides the ‘reasonable suspicion’ to be detained, questioned and arrested.” (translation by America’s Voice)

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice, “Even Joe Arpaio knows his record is toxic.  As we saw yesterday, Arpaio believes he’s neither responsible for the words in the book he authored, nor the law enforcement officials under his command.  He wasn’t strong and defiant yesterday, he was weak and deceptive.  But the community that has been living under siege from Arpaio and his goons know better.  And now the nation is seeing him for who he is and what he’s done.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.