AZ Governor Yanks Arpaio's Anti-Immigrant Funds

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In a deft strike at the Maricopa County Sheriff's highly controversial anti-immigrant round-up/deportation neighborhood sweeps, AZ Governor Janet Napolitano (D) has issued an executive order directing the state's Department of Public Safety (DPS) to give priority to targeting the tens of thousands of felons in the state: The executive order directs the DPS to immediately deploy a squad to address the backlog of nearly 60,000 open felony warrants statewide, with priority on gang-related felonies and fugitives who are undocumented immigrants.

The action takes place in a statewide budget crunch partly brought on, ironically, by misguided rightwing Republican-driven anti-immigration policies such as the recent "employer sanctions" law. These measures are triggering an exodus from Arizona of Hispanics (immigrant and other) fearful and angry at being targeted. When they leave, they take millions from the consumer/tax streams that fund state operations.

The open felony warrants Napolitano seeks to address appear largely to have been tabled by the Sheriff in order to  to target Hispanic immigrants who have entered the country without authorization.

That misdemeanor offense, of course, is passively encouraged by wholly inadequate national immigration policy, and is vigorously solicited by employers in Arizona and nationally who are desperate for reliable workers willing to work for low pay in tough, low-level jobs in construction, meat processing, agriculture, and other occupations. The Governor's order removes $1M in state funds from the Sheriff's control, and is "the latest development in an escalating feud between Arpaio and critics, including Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who have railed against him for" heavy-handed racial profiling tactics that have left Hispanics across the county in a state of fear and rage.

A review of receipts and requests for reimbursement from the Sheriff's Office shows that most of the money obtained last year was used to pay the salaries and overtime expenses of deputies involved in immigration enforcement. The state funds also were used to lease numerous vehicles from Fox Rent A Car and also to purchase radios and other equipment.

The Sheriff has achieved international notoriety for conducting arbitary surprise sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods in search of undocumented workers, and for his "pink underwear, green meat" tent city desert prison operations. His recent neighborhood sweeps have been described as racial profiling, and as "terrifying." 

Such raids inevitably also affect all neighborhood residents, inconveniencing non-Hispanics but victimizing both authorized Hispanic immigrants as well as Hispanic citizens: Immigration status can't be determined on sight, and strong familial and social networks span all sectors of the Hispanic community here and across the border.

As recent reports in The New York Times and the Washington Post make clear, these deportation raids can and frequently do involve serious human rights violations, including death, for detainees in transit and/or incarcerated in one of a growing number of for-profit detention centers in the USA.

Less well known are gratuitously cruel consequences that arise when immigrants from one country are deported without cash, passport, or even adequate clothing--sometimes with acute physical issues--to another. This is easily documented by reference to the dozens of largely interfaith community volunteers who host makeshift "transition centers" for deportees on the Mexican side of the border at Nogales and other crossing points.

Not surprisingly, Arpaio has vowed to continue his raids on county Latinos.

Now would be a good time for Arizonans to contact the Governor's office and state lawmakers in support of the Governor's action. It isn't the whole enchilada but it's a step in that direction.

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This page contains a single entry by Pico published on May 14, 2008 11:11 AM.

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