By Hon. Rebecca Jimenez
The state of Arizona has enacted some of the most punitive legislation targeting undocumented immigrants. One man, Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, has made it his mission to root out the undocumented in the Phoenix area.
The Sheriff conducts “crime suppression sweeps” which means that he gathers a “posse” of law enforcement officials and they choose a likely spot where they might apprehend an undocumented immigrant.
Hon. Rebecca Jimenez
(Source: Michelle Castro Smythe)
One town that Sheriff Arpaio has taken his brand of justice is the Town of Guadalupe. Yet, while most political officials where Sheriff Arpaio has conducted these operations have refrained from challenging the Sheriff, one has not.
Her name is Rebecca Jimenez and she is the Mayor of the Town of Guadalupe.
Jimenez made headlines when she had a showdown with the Sheriff when he came to Guadalupe to conduct one of his infamous sweeps.
In the following post, Jimenez outlines the reasons why she nor the Town of Guadalupe want or need the Sheriff’s help.
My name is Rebecca Jimenez and I am the current Mayor of Guadalupe, AZ.
Guadalupe is a Yaqui and Latino community of about 6,000 residents between Phoenix and Tempe at the base of South Mountain. The town proudly maintains a strong cultural and ethnic identity. It is named after the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.
Guadalupe was founded by Yaqui Indians around the turn of the century. The Town of Guadalupe is approximately one square mile in area. Although Guadalupe did not incorporate until 1975, our history dates back to 1907.
Guadalupe is a dual-culture community, those cultures being of Yaqui and/or Mexican descent. The Yaqui Indians have endured many turbulent times beginning with wars fought among the Spanish and Mexicans. When Porfirio Diazâ€™ regime persecuted them, the Yaquis fled North into the United States for safety.
Many of the Yaquis came up to the Salt River Valley to work on the construction of canals in the area. A community sprung up here â€“ where we became Guadalupe. Over the years many Latino families have settled in Guadalupe and added their cultural heritage to the community as well.
Guadalupe does not have its own police department. Over the last two decades, the town has had a $1.2 million contract with the Maricopa County Sheriffâ€™s Office (MCSO).
It has been a tumultuous relationship from the start.
The Town of Guadalupe has many issues that it struggles with daily and the MCSO is one of them. Because the town is composed mostly of residents who are Yaqui Indian or of Mexican descent, the Sheriff deputies view us through a colored lens and treat us accordingly.
When our townspeople call Sheriff Arpaioâ€™s deputies for help, even for Priority One calls, it has taken up to 45 minutes for them to arrive, even as recently as two weeks ago.
Once the deputies do arrive, they treat the victims as if they are the criminals. This has been a challenge to our town and council because it is such a close-knit community that word quickly spreads about the insensitive and even abusive behavior of the deputies when they interact with our people.
Even before I became Mayor in December 2007, I had several encounters with deputies that illustrate the ignorance and prejudice of the Sheriffâ€™s deputies.
I would often call their superior, Lieutenant Shephard, and ask why their deputies always came into town with â€œtheir guns drawn,â€ and treating our people as sub-human.
Once, he answered that one of his deputiesâ€™ cars had been vandalized, so they felt threatened in the community. Another time, one of the deputies called me a â€œfat pig,â€ when I called to report this to Lt. Shephard, he said, â€œYou must have deserved it.â€ I wonder if he remembers me now.
Although the council has tried repeatedly to get out of this contract with Sheriff Arpaio, we have been unable to garner interest from other police departments in the Metro Phoenix area. No one was interested in serving Guadalupe in this capacity.
Last week, April 3rd, 2008, changed all that and Guadalupe is on the verge of something fabulous.
Because of the increased media attention, the City of Phoenix has communicated to us that they are now willing to consider entering into a law enforcement contract between their police department and the Town of Guadalupe.
So, out of something negative came a positive.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio is using these sweeps as a way to campaign and garner support from like-minded voters. He is using taxpayer money for these purposes and is able to do so by pandering to a chosen few and disguising his â€œGestapoâ€-like tactics as valid law-enforcement against the â€œillegalâ€ immigration problem.
From my own perspective, I see Sheriff Arpaio as a danger to the future growth and prosperity of the Phoenix Metro area, especially in Guadalupe.
His tactics not only drive a wedge between mainstream America and Latinos, they also cause a rift between Americans of Latino descent and the undocumented, as some may feel they have to create a separation between â€œusâ€ and â€œthem.â€
Itâ€™s also dangerous because he does not care about the overt discrimination present in his tactics. One of the undercover patrol cars had a Sinaloa, Mexico license plate, which just reinforces who he is targeting and who he views as the enemy.
The problem with this is that all Latinos are viewed through the same distorted lens and we have to constantly justify our existence in this country.
Maybe Sheriff Arpaio needs to be reminded that he is a Sheriff in the year 2008 not 1888.
Everyone can do something to combat him, and people like him.
Other than voting him out of office, one way is to stand up to him. Our town, and neighboring community members, came out in force to protest his particular brand of covert racism.
For the first time, Sheriff Joe had to retreat and move his command post out of the community he was targeting. I hope that this event can serve to motivate other leaders and â€œordinaryâ€ citizens to do the right thing and stand up to this type of modern-day, racialized scare tactics.
Hon. Rebecca Jimenez
Mayor, Town of Guadalupe