Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile… You’re Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.
"Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable." said Conyers. "Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement."
This move comes on the heels of Sheriff Joe's latest stunt where he segregated and paraded migrant worker detainees in Phoenix like chained animals. Latinos in Maricopa County are well-aware that the sheriff gives the wink-wink/nod-nod treatment to racial profiling so this is definitely welcomed news. Arpaio has repeatedly abused his authority under the 287g agreement between the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and DHS. Frank Sherry of America's Voice writes:
The Joe Arpaio approach to law enforcement is un-American and ineffective -- not to mention expensive. Joe's actions are the perfect example of why local enforcement of federal immigration law is inherently flawed, and they point to the increasing need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Arpaio is a modern day Bull Connor and his publicity-seeking crusades have made the Latino community scared and Maricopa County less safe by prioritizing racial profiling over executing the felony warrants that have piled up on his desk. His most recent scheme, rounding up immigrants and shipping them off to separate "tent cities," is just the latest in a career filled with dangerous and anti-Latino demagoguery.
The letter (.pdf warning) from the congressional committee is addressed to both Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. It will be interesting to see what Napolitano does now since Arpaio hails from Janet's home state. Conyers is suggesting that the 287g agreement be terminated altogether, which is fine by me.