Although no final word from the Department of Homeland Security has emerged regarding Sheriff Arpaio’s authority to enforce immigration law, Arpaio himself has been all over the media circuit, insisting that he will continue to prosecute undocumented immigrants with or without an agreement. Immigration law is prosecuted at the federal level and local police have no authority to enforce it other than through special programs, the most notorious of which is the 287(g) agreement.
In this interview with Rick Sanchez from CNN, Sheriff Arpaio is caught red-handed, admitting that he uses tactics that could well be classified as racial profiling.
From the The Wonk Room blog:
SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime — how do you prove they they’re not illegal?
ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.
SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?
ARPAIO: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.
Annoyed at being caught out, he then goes on to say that he is tired of the “race card” and that there have been barely any complaints against him – seeming to forget the 2,700 lawsuits that have been filed against him. One of the lawsuits filed by the ACLU on behalf of Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto, siblings who are U.S. citizens is a shocking example of what’s really going on. This happened in Maricopa County under Sheriff Arpaio’s jurisdiction.
As the siblings drove into a gas they noticed an officer speaking with two Latino-looking men in handcuffs. Asked to leave the parking lot for disturbing the peace, they said they would but asked the deputy for his badge number. As they pulled out, Sheriff’s vehicles descended on them, with officers jumping out of their vehicles and raising their weapons. When they finally proved they were U.S. citizens they were let go of, without any explanation, or apology.
Reports and testimonies have consistently shown the rampant allegations of discrimination and racial profiling that accompany programs that deputize state and local police with the power to enforce immigration law. And contrary to the objective of the program, a GAO report found that participating local police were removing immigrants for minor violations instead of curbing serious violent offenders. In Arpaio’s county, FBI statistics show that violent crime has increased by 69% since he shifted his focus to immigration.
Encouraged by various cancellations of 287(g) agreements, advocates were disappointed today to hear the news that Nashville would continue its agreement – although in a modified form. An investigation conducted by the Tennessean showed that of the roughly 3,000 people deported during the program’s first year, about 81 percent were charged with misdemeanors ad half were caught during traffic stops. But the proof didn’t seem enough.
With more and more evidence of the lack of benefits in the program, we wonder when the lesson will come through that immigration enforcement should remain in the hands of federal immigration authorities so our communities can be safer for all of us.