Monday, March 16, 2009

A New Sheriff in Washington Takes on Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Readers of this blog know I have talked about Sheriff Joe Arpaio many times over the last few years. At least once every few months some one sends me an email which has been forwarded more times around this country than William Hung singing "She Bangs" on American Idol. The email is always a variation of this:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio (in Arizona) is doing it RIGHT!! He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them. He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jails. Took away their weights. Cut off all but "G" movies. He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again but only let in the Disney channel and the weather channel. When asked why the weather channel he replied, so they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.
He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value. When the inmates complained, he told them.....this is a good one......"This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."

He bought Newt Gingrich's lecture series on videotape that he pipes into the jails. When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a Democrat, he replied that a democratic lecture series might explain why a lot of the inmates were in his jails in the first place. You have to love this guy!!

More on the AZ Sheriff:
With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record), the Associated Press reports:
About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts. On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached 138 degrees inside the week before. Many were also swathed in wet, pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their pink socks. "It feels like we are in a furnace," said James Zanzot, an inmate who has lived in the tents for 1 1/2 years. "It's inhumane." Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes... so shut your damned mouths."
Now I have been called " a media hog" by some detractors especially since I did all my own Public Information Officer work for the last 6 years. I always felt it was important for me as an elected official to be available and to personally be the spokesperson for the office the voters entrusted me to hold. However, Sheriff Joe Arpaio makes me look shy with his vote getting, media attracting stunts. Most of Sheriff Arpaio's stunts were legal yet degrading stunts designed to show how tough he was on crime and taking advantage of the fact that most people had a view of jail life that included criminals watching cable t.v. and working out all day while being served 3 decent meals a day. Sheriff Arpaio seized the opportunity presented itself by that impression and set out to show that his jail, one made of tents in the Arizona desert, took away that easy life. He instituted chain gangs and professed to feed his inmates leftovers from local grocers and restaurants. What he liked to call "Green Bologna". He also went so far as to purchase old military food packs called MRE's "meal ready to eat" at very cheap prices and feed them to the inmates.

All of these stunts allowed him to portray himself as "the toughest Sheriff in America". As I said earlier these stunts were just that, publicity stunts that were legal. In the last year Sheriff Arpaio had his deputies trained under federal government program called a 287G agreement. This is up for considerable debate but the truth is immigration law is a federal civil law not a national criminal law. This means that only federal officers (ICE Officers) can arrest someone solely on the basis that they are illegally in this country. A comparison to this is the IRS, a local police officer can not arrest you for income tax crimes. Only a federal officer can.

However local agencies can enter into an agreement with immigration in which the federal government will train and deputize local deputies to enforce immigration law. In other words give local authorities the ability to arrest illegal immigrants when that is their only crime. As usual Sheriff Arpaio decided to apply his brand of law enforcement to an agreement with ICE and having his deputies deputized to enforce immigration law. Sheriff Arpaio had his deputies perform sweeps of predominately Hispanic neighborhoods. Allegedly during these sweeps innocent people were stopped questioned and arrested if they lacked proper documentation.

In his usual circus atmosphere fashion Sheriff Arpaio arrested thousands of illegal immigrants and then paraded them in shackles in front of the media. He opened up his own segregated tent city jail just for immigrants and while moving the immigrants from one tent city to the other he led them in large chain gangs in front of TV and newspaper camera's in one big Mexican parade. The only thing missing was the mariachi's. Eventually human rights and immigrant rights groups began protesting, the Governor and the Mayor of Phoenix began to join in the protests and the State cut off funding for some of Sheriff Arpaio's programs.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon wrote a letter to the Department of Justice whom had investigated Sheriff Arpaio's office at least twice before during the Bush Administration. Those inquirys remain sealed to this day prompting the Sheriff to point to them and say "see they didn't find anything!". Now there is a new Sheriff in Town. President Obama has been elected and the new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is taking up the complaints with a new vigor. The U.S. Justice Department launched a new civil rights investigation of Sheriff Arpaio's administration. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan and chairman of the House judiciary committee has also announced plans to hold congressional hearings on local immigration enforcement and call Arpaio as a witness in the coming months. Sheriff Arpaio has laid down the gauntlet saying he would not travel to Washington and testify.

You can tell the pressure is on as Sheriff Arpaio has taken to going on National Radio and News TV shows to scream foul. He claims he is unfairly being targeted as a Republican advocate for Immigration reform. The Sheriff has latched onto the immigration reform issue and placed himself squarely in the middle of the debate between those who feel we are not doing enough and those who feel we should not persecute those who come here looking for a better life. Now obviously the locals in Maricopa County are OK with Sheriff Arpaio's antics. He is re-elected time after time. During each election I think this must be his last but like many who want to see him go we are disappointed.

No comments: