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Arizona’s “Toughest Sheriff” and the Human Rights Crisis he Created

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.

(1) http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/region_phoenix_metro/central_phoenix/14-officers-will-get-287%28g%29-training,-giving-them-power-to-determine-immigration-status-in-jails
(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.
(3) http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/special_reports/reasonable_doubt/
(4) http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2009-10-22/news/pregnant-latina-says-she-was-forced-to-give-birth-to-her-baby-in-shackles-after-one-of-arpaio-s-deputies-racially-profiled-her/

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Photo courtesy of HumanLeague002

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163 comments

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5:07PM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

Thank you.

5:06PM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

Thank you.

5:05PM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

Thank you.

3:58PM PST on Nov 14, 2010

To Zoraida I don't believe I missed anything and I think you made your point with your anger and name calling which shows a little of the same fear don't you think? For example I am no "dummy" and I have no ignorance, fear, or hatred on this matter. I feel how I feel and that is not spun from any of those emotions. If you want people to listen Truly listen try to come across with facts and intelligence. I can speak from personal experience in saying when I hear name calling because my opinion differs from yours I shut down.
Here are some facts:
You as a tax payer pay for people who break the law to be incarcerated period. Whether someone is there for being an illegal citizen or a dui to me one is no worse than the other. I mean does this government misuse it's power? Most of the time I would say yes but to have no law, no order means anarchy and I don't believe most of us would last to long in a society like that if you really think about it. But that's what in part this site (I believe) is made for; changing things we think can or should be changed. However, how much do we really accomplish name calling each other on a message board now can we?

4:19PM PST on Nov 7, 2010

As with all things political ... which, in the beginning could have been settled quickly and amicably if addressed with the vested interests of all and not the few in mind, the situation is now so out of hand as not to conclude at all.

As the planet spins more and more out of control in all corners, seems that bigger and better disasters are needed to wipe the slate clean and begin again with reason. The only time people pull together is after they're knocked to their knees en masse.

2:14PM PDT on Nov 5, 2010

There is absolutely NO reason why any female in America should have to give birth outside of a medical facility! Ridiculous!

3:18PM PDT on Nov 4, 2010

I absolutely support laws that disallow illegal entry into this country. What I don't support is a racist, fool who finds no problem being associated with the KKK. Arizona should be ashamed of this man.

10:02PM PDT on Nov 3, 2010

tricky subject, i see.
but just think for a moment how things should really be done.

10:53AM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

Zoraida, you've pretty much nailed it.

1.)There are proven alternatives to incarceration that are effective, far more humane, and far more cost-efficient.

2.)The group FAIR, the people that wrote the Arizona legislation, along with the state Senator who sponsored the bill, all have been reported to have unsavory ties to racist groups or espoused racist views.

3.)Immigration is way down, with more undocumented workers reported leaving than coming due to the bad economy.

4.)Immigrants give as much or more to our economy than they cost.

5.)If you don't count those incarcerated merely for their illegal status, undocumented workers commit less crime than your average American.

6.)Gov. Brewer was opposed to the legislation until faced with stiff opposition from a conservative challenger. John McCain likewise belly-flopped on his stand in a bid to shore up his conservative 'base' in the last presidential election.

7.)Without a large demand from U.S. businesses for cheap labor, their would be little problem with the large supply of undocumented workers.

So what we have is bigots, xenophobes, industry, and mostly right-wing politicians exploiting or beating up on the weakest, most vulnerable among us--those that can't fight back. Nice, huh?

They've also managed to misinform many Americans through extensive fear-mongering and distortion of the nature and scope of the problem, another shameful element.

10:51AM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

Zoraida, you've pretty much nailed it.

1.)There are proven alternatives to incarceration that are effective, far more humane, and far more cost-efficient.

2.)The group FAIR, the people that wrote the Arizona legislation, along with the state Senator who sponsored the bill, all have been reported to have unsavory ties to racist groups or espoused racist views.

3.)Immigration is way down, with more undocumented workers reported leaving than coming due to the bad economy.

4.)Immigrants give as much or more to our economy than they cost.

5.)If you don't count those incarcerated merely for their illegal status, undocumented workers commit less crime than your average American.

6.)Gov. Brewer was opposed to the legislation until faced with stiff opposition from a conservative challenger. John McCain likewise belly-flopped on his stand in a bid to shore up his conservative 'base' in the last presidential election.

7.)Without a large demand from U.S. businesses for cheap labor, their would be little problem with the large supply of undocumented workers.

So what we have is bigots, xenophobes, industry, and mostly right-wing politicians exploiting or beating up on the weakest, most vulnerable among us--those that can't fight back. Nice, huh?

They've also managed to misinform many Americans through extensive fear-mongering and distortion of the nature and scope of the problem, another shameful element.

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