Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reason #239: Accountability

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona likes to call himself the toughest sheriff in America--primarily due to his hardline battle against illegal immigration. Sure enough, whenever his officers conduct a sweep for suspected illegal activity--and there have been many--they make a point of asking for people's documentation.

This has resulted in both an ongoing debate on the legality of "papers please" laws nationally and a big bump in the amount of illegal immigrant detainees locally. 57 percent, in fact, of the 1500 people Arpaio's sweeps have arrested in the last four years or so have just so happened to end up being illegal immigrants.

Amazing numbers, right? Surely Maricopa County must be utterly flooded with illegals if 57 percent of the people who get arrested for completely random, everyday, non-immigration reasons also happen to be undocumented?

Well, either that or the deputies are unfairly targeting Hispanics and Hispanic neighborhoods. And that's just what the Department of Justice was alleging (well, on top of other things) when they filed suit against Arpaio's office last spring. No date for that trial has yet been set, but in the meantime, another trial began today for a similar suit brought by a coalition of Arpaio's opponents, including the Arizona ACLU.

While the DOJ's allegations are more broad, and the consequences likely more severe, many are watching the ACLU case, expected to last most of the next month, to get a sense of how the DOJ's will go. And if the DOJ's case is successful--combined with the Supreme Court's mostly-tough ruling on immigration enforcement last month, we could soon be looking at a very different state of affairs in the Southwest--and a bunch of even more riled-up old white guys.

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