March 20, 2009


Is Sheriff Arpaio a Criminal?

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

While real criminals run around selling drugs, kidnapping and killing people, local yokel sheriffs and chiefs of police are horning in on immigration law enforcement and bungling the job.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the best example of how a local yokel Keystone Kop can bungle immigration law enforcement by ignoring real criminals and isolating petty criminals who may be illegally in the country and filling his ersatz jails and barbed wire compounds with these men.

He even pulls a Nazi-like parade of illegals chained together in a march on public streets from one compound to another so the public can see how tough he can be on helpless, chained animal-like illegals.

The Nazis used to round up Jews that way and march them to cattle cars for transport to their deaths.

Am I alone in looking with askance on how Sheriff Arpaio brings back memories of Nazis?

No, in recent weeks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its congressionally commissioned report on the 287(g) program that enables local yokel cops like Arpaio to run amok. The Government’s review of this program, which deputizes local law-enforcement officers to act as immigration enforcement agents, confirms my views on local yokels acting as immigration officers.

The report reflects what community members and criminal-justice experts have been saying:

“…The program is not being used to target dangerous criminals, and there has not been adequate federal oversight of the local police departments participating in the program.”

The GAO report reports that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not clearly articulated the objectives of the 287(g) program or the guidelines that participating police departments must follow, thereby creating confusion and mismanagement. Furthermore, ICE has not demonstrated effective oversight of the 67 partnership agreements and 950 officers who have been trained, potentially resulting in “misuse of authority.” Finally, participating police agencies have not consistently documented their activities, making it impossible to measure the success or failure of the program, or to justify the high costs associated with it.”

Documentation…? How does parading chained inmates together, guarded by automatic rifle-toting deputies, notifying the press and marching inmates on foot from one facility to another in daytime not be documentation? Millions witnessed Arpaio’s school-ground type march.

First, the question of whether or not locals should be involved in enforcing immigration laws. Should locals like Arpaio be involved? The answer is no.

Should ICE tightly control the locals if they are to be used in immigration law enforcement? Yes.

Should ICE cut off any federal monies or control of any locals, like Arpaio, who stray from the mission of looking for and arresting real criminal aliens? Yes.

Should ICE bother with minor infractions like traffic laws as Arpaio deputies do? No. The report concludes that many of the locals involved in this 287 (g) program are arresting people for petty and minor infractions and law breaking when the subject has a Hispanic name or is not white or black or Asian.

In recent days a congressional committee has announced that it will investigate whether or not Sheriff Arpaio is working within the 287 (g) program, if ICE is and are any other federal laws being observed improperly by these local agents.

Following this announcement there came word from the Department of Justice that it will investigate Sheriff Arpaio’s department specifically to see if he and his department have violated any rights of any people.

Marching 200 Mexicans in prison garb and chains through the streets of Phoenix is, in itself, prima facie proof that something is amiss in Arizona.

It appears that I am not alone in that observation as some would claim.

If the current investigations expose Arpaio for being criminal in how he handles prisoners and how his department conducts illegal sweeps, should he be charged criminally? Yes! As should any other local yokel cop who conducts his duties in a criminal manner.

Arpaio should be the first. Then let’s see how he likes the publicity.

Contreras’s books are at

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