Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that he intends to put together a volunteer vigilante force to hunt undocumented persons. The announcement came by way of press release and is one long advocated for by Arpaio supporter and open neo-Nazi J.T. Ready.
According the the press release, “The Sheriff will soon implement his plan to commission a volunteer armed posse force outfitted with appropriate hardware and gear to assist in the enforcement of illegal immigration and human smuggling laws.”
Assuming Sheriff Arpaio is good on his word, and given his zeal for law enforcement targeted at Latinos there’s no reason to doubt him, this armed posse will be up and running alongside the U.S. Border Guard–another armed vigilante group patrolling the U.S./Mexico border. Ready’s the force behind this group, which operates principally out of Pinal and Maricopa Counties.
These kinds of groups are not new to this country–we used to call them lynch mobs. Historically they enforced anti-miscengation laws and other Jim Crow-era laws that were born of fear and hatred of another visibly-different minority. The served no purpose other than to terrorize a particular group of people then, and they serve no other purpose now.
Arpaio is playing an interesting game of chicken here with state and federal authorities. He’s already being sued for failing to cooperate with the grand jury that is investigating Arpaio for civil rights violations. His past actions have alienated many others in law enforcement who are trying to keep ties with the immigrant communities as part of a comprehensive policing strategy.
And now he’s decided to start freelancing. It’s a move that takes him dangerously close to lawlessness and one that, given his ties to racist groups within the extreme right, should make many in the right stop and take notice and ask if this is the person they want as a spokesman in their fight against illegal immigration.
Despite the obvious disconnect in employing armed vigilantes for “legitimate law enforcement” purposes, Arpaio’s chumminess with racists at best creates a PR nightmare for those on the right who are really trying to sell SB 1070 as anything other than grounded in racial malice.
photo courtesy of jim.greenhill via Flickr