Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Napolitano, Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio is your Problem

Jessica Acee • Feb 06, 2009

It’s been 48 hours since over 200 undocumented immigrants were handcuffed, marched through Phoenix streets and abandoned in a tent city surrounded by an electric fence in the middle of the desert. This latest publicity stunt by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a clear violation of human rights law. Based on a recent report showing that ICE has been lying, and purposely targeting immigrants with no documented criminal activity, it’s very likely that some of these people have not committed crimes.

Meanwhile, sitting comfortably in DC, newly minted Secretary of Homeland Secretary (and former AZ governor) Janet Napolitano is being called “the best advocate for sense and sensibility.” But where is her sense of justice and humanity when residents of her own community are isolated not for any specific crime but because of their nationality? This is ludicrous.

Where was Napolitano when Arpaio forced inmates (some convicted of crimes, many unable to afford bail) to work on chain gangs, eat rotting meat, or parade around in pink underwear?

Napolitano’s relationship to Arpaio goes back more than a decade to the days when she was a U.S. Attorney. She headed up a Justice Department investigation in 1995 into the human rights violations occurring at Arpaio’s, then new, tent city. She went out of her way to defend Arpaio and downplay the atrocities. “We run a strict jail but a safe jail, and I haven’t heard from anyone who thinks that this is a bad thing,” Napolitano told the Associated Press at the time.

When the Justice Department finally issued a report confirming that Sheriff Joe had indeed crossed the line in hog-tying and beating inmates, a lawsuit was filed and then settled immediately when Arpaio agreed to some small changes. At the press conference after the settlement guess who stood by his side? Janet Napolitano! And it was Arpaio standing by her side as she campaigned for Governor in 2002.

During her tenure has Governor she stepped in only once when in May of 2008, she diverted $1.6 million from Arpaio’s hands to a new state taskforce aimed at rounding up felons. She did nothing as a US Attorney, next to nothing as governor, and now that she is Secretary of Homeland Security she has a whole arsenal of tools at her disposal to end the cruelty in Maricopa County. She failed to clean up the mess when it was in her own backyard and now she continues to do nothing as the nation watches.

This is an obvious example of why we can’t have local law enforcement acting as federal immigration agents and why 287g must be reviewed top to bottom. But if one person can step up and put an end to the crimes perpetrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it’s Secretary Janet Napolitano. She should do so immediately.

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