LatinaLista — Mention the name Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and depending on which side of the immigration reform fence a person is on, will illicit two entirely different responses. For immigrant advocates/sympathizers and undocumented immigrants, he’s a member of the law enforcement community who has blatantly abused his authority and intimidated his critics. For others, he’s a hero who exercises his right as a man of the badge who has successfully challenged the White House on its immigration enforcement.
The trouble with two such very different views is that more truth lies in one rather than the other. Today, the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), after much independent investigation, released findings of which is the truer portrait of Sheriff Arpaio. What they found is the same thing that has been testified by people caught up in the sheriff’s immigration sweeps, reported on by local newspapers and voiced by political opponents — the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is guilty of racial profiling in traffic stops and immigration operations and discriminating against Spanish speakers in the county jails.
According to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, these violations by Sheriff Arpaio and his staff are a direct result “from a culture in the Sheriff’s Office that breeds a culture of disregard for the constitution.”
The DOJ’s report clearly outlines that after an extensive investigation that included reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence, interviewed over 400 individuals, including the sheriff, the conclusion was “reasonable cause to believe the MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office), through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, all in violation of Section 14141.”
Needless to say, the Sheriff disagrees with the findings, and as his defiant style, attributes them to nothing more than political payback.
Yet, when so many different members of the community have the same story, it’s not political payback — it’s common knowledge.
Already, the Department of Homeland Security is distancing itself from the controversial sheriff. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revoked Arpaio’s authority to conduct immigration screenings in the jails which was part of the national Secure Communities program.
But this is only the beginning since there are many other Joe Arpaios out there who are abusing their authority to essentially take the law into their own hands.
Hopefully, this report signals a new kind of sweep — sweeping out those who manipulate the law to justify their own ambitions and prejudices.