Arizona’s “Toughest Sheriff” and the Human Rights Crisis he Created
NOTE: This is the second in a series of guest posts by Pablo Alvarado from Arizona and the front lines of the immigration debate. You can find the first post here. Check back next Friday, Nov. 5 for the final installment.
“They call me KKK, I consider it an honor. It means we’re doing something,” are the startling words of Sheriff Arpaio, the top law enforcer of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Unlike radio hosts or other public officials who lose their posts instantly when uttering similar remarks, Arpaio’s position has won five elections and received continuous support from the federal government.(1)
In Arizona, the country’s “toughest Sheriff” has created a human rights crisis of unrealized proportions. Long known for his humiliating tactics of dressing inmates in pink underwear and the use of the antiquated chain-gang, in 2007 the federal government gave Arpaio license to dedicate his entire operation to a witch hunt in Latino and indigenous neighborhoods for their undocumented members.(2)
In my last post, I explained the horrific impact Arpaio’s reign has had on the children of Maricopa County. Unfortunately though, the suffering is intergenerational.
For citizens and non-citizens, there are reasons to worry. By dedicating his resources to such an aimless pursuit, many other crimes are left unattended to whatsoever.(3) The hunt is indiscriminate and racial, a community drag net that catches up anyone who fits the profile.
Alma Chacon is one of the most stunning examples of the dehumanization occurring in Arizona. Taken in at nine months pregnant after being profiled at a traffic stop, Ms. Chacon was forced to give birth shackled to the hospital bed and denied even the ability to hold her newborn.(4)
Many of those who are brought to Arpaio’s jails are transferred to “tent city,” an outdoor facility in the triple degree weather the Sheriff has referred to as his own “concentration camps.”
Branded by many as a modern day Bull Connor, there’s also been a modern day civil rights movement to defeat Arpaio’s policies and reaffirm human rights and dignity in the state of Arizona. The Puente Movement has held a protest outside the Sheriff’s office every single day for the past two years. Hundreds of thousands have marched in protest. As a result, the Department of Justice launched an investigation that is now two years old.
For the women, children, and workers of Arizona, how much longer must they wait before justice is reestablished in the state? How much more evidence is needed? And for the rest of us, who have we become that this is tolerated without our resounding outcry? When will it be enough to “Alto Arizona“?
Pablo Alvarado was forced to flee his native El Salvador and came to the US with other refugees looking for odd jobs at low pay on street corners in L.A. Now, he is the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an organization dedicated to building a grassroots movement achieve civil and human rights for low-wage migrant workers and all people.
(2) In 2007, the Sheriff’s office signed an MOU with federal immigration and customs enforcement empowering the local officers to enforce federal immigration law under a 287g agreement.
Photo courtesy of HumanLeague002