Numerous press reports indicate that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will renew its 287(g) agreement with controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ today allowing Arpaio’s deputies to continue to exercise immigration enforcement authority inside county jails. For years, Arpaio has terrorized Latino neighborhoods with outrageous tactics. His excesses have resulted in 3,500 lawsuits, a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, and thousands of unserved felony warrants stacked up on his desk as his officers focus on “other priorities.”
“Entering into any agreement with the Bull Connor of our generation extends legitimacy to a rogue cop dedicated to terrorizing Latino immigrants,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “Arpaio should be stopped, not re-signed,” he added.
All of this comes on the heels of a startling revelation: Arpaio has been relying on faulty legal analysis produced by an organization designated as a hate group to justify his controversial tactics. The background is this: during a recent press conference, Arpaio passed out a document that attempted to legally substantiate his heavy-handed sweeps of Latino neighborhoods by citing federal law. When journalists could not find the relevant sourcing, Arpaio claimed the text was from Cornell University Law School. As the Arizona Republic notes, Cornell professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, said the analysis “did not come from the school’s Web site,” that “the specific statute cited does not exist,” and “what he has cited is an overly simplistic interpretation of a very complicated area of law.” Instead of originating at Cornell Law, the Arizona Republic story notes that the legal interpretation for Arpaio’s unconstitutional actions actually originated from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
While DHS will reportedly seek to end Arpaio’s authority to do street sweeps of non-criminals under the 287(g) program, Arpaio has vowed to press on with his so-called “crime suppression sweeps”. In fact, in an obvious attempt to thumb his nose at the DHS restrictions, Arpaio promises to conduct another sweep today. During the sweeps, Arpaio and his “posse” of deputized citizens stop Latinos on real and imagined violations in order to arrest, detain, and turn over to ICE for deportation those without proper immigration papers. He says that if ICE does not accept those he detains, he will drive them to the border himself.
During the Bush Administration, Arpaio was given wide latitude to exploit the 287(g) program and conduct a reign of terror on immigrant communities. This has led numerous law enforcement leaders and organizations, such as the Police Foundation and many attendees at a recent Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) summit, to call for significant reform of the program to protect effective policing and reduce rights abuses.
Added Sharry, “the ability of law enforcement to reduce crime suffers when large segments of the community become afraid and mistrustful of law enforcement. Arpaio, based on legal advice from an extremist anti-immigrant organization, has turned this central tenet of community policing on its head. In his world, Latinos in the community – the very people who might serve as force-multipliers for the police to target real criminals – are themselves targeted. Let’s hope the Department of Justice will step in and do what the Department of Homeland Security has not done and end Arpaio’s reign of terror.”