Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand?

Randy James in Time:

He likes to call himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and even used that moniker as the title of his autobiography. It’s a claim few people would challenge — but whether that makes Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio an effective law-enforcement officer or, as his critics say, a flagrant human-rights violator remains an open question. The stern law-and-order advocate has declared war on illegal immigration in his sprawling jurisdiction, which includes Phoenix, but now the Federal Government is reining him in. Arpaio, who gained national attention for housing his inmates in tents when jails reached capacity and forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear, said earlier this month that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has revoked his deputies’ authority to arrest people on immigration violations in the field (they can still check immigration status and make arrests in county jails). A final decision by the Department of Homeland Security is expected to be made public on Oct. 14. Though Arpaio’s severe tactics are popular among Arizonans, his deputies have attracted widespread criticism in their pursuit of illegal immigrants for harassment and the racial profiling of Latinos. Just a small fraction of the 33,000 arrests he has overseen have been based on documentation checks in the field, but Arpaio says the program to allow field checks is symbolically important: “This is a crime-deterrent program, too.”

There’s no shortage of opinion on whether Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has done anything wrong. Almost ignored, however, are the Justice Department lawyers investigating him. Yet their conduct raises serious questions — namely, have their liberal bias and apparently unethical tactics caused fundamental flaws in their investigation?

The Department’s Civil Rights Division is investigating how Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff, treats illegal immigrants when he arrests them. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is auditing his participation in a federal program — commonly referred to by its statutory citation, “287(g)” — that allows local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. Arpaio, whose office is the largest participant in the DHS program, has been accused of improperly launching “crime sweeps in areas around Phoenix with high concentrations of Hispanics” as well as “separating” illegal immigrants from other inmates that he has arrested.

It’s impossible to know at this point whether any of the criticisms of Arpaio have merit. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who wrote the legal guidelines for Arpaio’s crime-suppression operations, insists that that he isn’t “aware of any racial profiling in Arpaio’s crime and immigration sweeps” and notes that Arpaio has simply saturated neighborhoods deemed to be high-crime areas. Regardless, the Justice Department may have a lot more to answer for than Arpaio.

Arizona is on the front lines of the immigration crisis confronting the American Southwest. As thousands of illegal immigrants flood across the border — many engaging in violent and drug-related crimes, choking the local court systems and otherwise imposing heavy economic costs on Arizona communities — Arpaio has been a visible force in local enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Not surprisingly, Arpaio has incurred the wrath of those on the left who oppose immigration enforcement in general, and especially local enforcement of federal immigration laws. Many would like to see the 287(g) program terminated. Unfortunately, the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section (SPL), which initiated the investigation of Maricopa County, appears hell-bent on aiding these groups’ efforts. SPL has a bad track record enforcing poorly defined and constitutionally questionable legal standards, and it has already been accused of unethical conduct in this case.

Several Radley Balko posts at Reason, here, here and here.

Huffington Post:

Joseph Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff known for his brutal tactics to little effect, is at the center of yet another controversy.

Arpaio is under investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for alleged illegal profiling in his immigration crackdowns. The federal government recently took away some of his power to enforce immigration laws — Arpaio cited a non-existent law to claim he could keep arresting illegal immigrants on the street anyway.

Now, Telemundo 52 is reporting on the case of a woman named Alma Minerva Chacon, who says she was detained while nine months pregnant and forced to give birth while shackled to a bed. Chacon said she was not allowed to hold her baby and was told that if no one came to pick up the child within 72 hours, the baby would be turned over to state custody.

Matthew DeLong at The Washington Independent:

Here are some stark — if not entirely surprising — numbers from the latest Rasmussen Reports poll of the 2010 Arizona gubernatorial race. Out of four potential Republican contenders, anti-illegal immigration crusader and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the only one who leads the likely Democratic front-runner Terry Goddard, the state’s popular attorney general, in a head-to-head match-up.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Arizona voters finds Arpaio, famed for his crackdowns on illegal immigrants, leading Goddard, the state’s current attorney general, by 12 points – 51% to 39%. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.

According to the survey, Goddard leads Republican Gov. Jan Brewer by a comfortable nine-point margin, and Goddard is virtually tied with State Treasurer Dean Martin. Brewer is the only one of the possible candidates who is officially in the race.

With numbers like this, could Arpaio be enticed to run for governor? And could he win?

Radley Balko:

It’s gotten so surreal out in Arizona, I’m a little lost in the details. But as I understand it, here’s what’s happened since our last update:

  • Judge Lisa Flores says the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department hast stopped bringing inmates into her court for hearings.
  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed a bizarre federal lawsuit alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy among the county’s judges and supervisors against Arpaio, Thomas, and Arpaio’s department.
  • Thomas indicted two Maricopa County supervisors on corruption charges.
  • Then it gets weird. Yesterday, Arpaio and Thomas criminally charged Judge Donahoe (the judge who held Arpaio’s document-swiping deputy in contempt) on bribery charges. Except there was apparently never any actual bribe. They didn’t like how Donahoe had ruled on some motions related to Arpaio’s investigation into the construction of a new tower for the county courthouse. Apparently, Donahoe’s “bribe” was merely his employment with the court system that benefits from the tower. Oh, and he’s also retiring soon.
  • Bonus: The indictment documents Thomas released to the press apparently “mistakenly” included Donahoe’s home address.
  • Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

    If any public official in America deserves the contempt of all citizens, it is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County lawman who has forced innocent men to march down the street in pink underwear, reportedly forced a Latina woman to give birth while shackled to a bed, and is now trumping up bribery charges against a local judge. That Arizonans repeatedly elect this man is a mark against their polity.

    The Los Angeles Times reports:

    He recently filed a racketeering lawsuit against the entire Maricopa County power structure. On Thursday night, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an emergency order forbidding the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from searching the home or chambers of a Superior Court judge who was named in the racketeering case.

    Last year, when Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called for a federal investigation of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office demanded to see Gordon’s e-mails, phone logs and appointment calendars.

    When the police chief in one suburb complained about the sweeps, Arpaio’s deputies raided that town’s City Hall.

    A local television station, KPHO, in a 10-minute-long segment last month, documented two dozen instances of the sheriff launching investigations of critics, none of which led to convictions.

    The most notorious case involves county Supervisor Don Stapley, a Republican who has sometimes disagreed with Arpaio’s immigration tactics. Last December, deputies arrested Stapley on charges of failing to disclose business interests properly on his statement of economic interest.

    Stapley’s alarmed supervisor colleagues had their offices swept for listening devices. Arpaio contended the search was illegal and sent investigators to the homes of dozens of county staffers to grill them about the sweep.

    And see the tireless Radley Balko here for another example of this man’s penchant for obstinate lawlessness.

    Given all that, can a reader from Arizona please explain this to me: “PHOENIX — The most popular choice for governor among Republicans is someone who isn’t running now — and may not run at all: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.” There is no instance I know of in America where the grassroots of the Republican Party could do more damage to liberty than to elect this man governor.

    E.D. Kain at The League:

    Hey now.  ”Arizonans” don’t repeatedly elect Sheriff Joe into office – the citizens of Maricopa County do.  The rest of us have nothing to do with it. Careful with that big paint brush, Conor, someone could lose an eye….

    UPDATE: Zachary Roth at TPM

    UPDATE #2: Washington Times

    Hans Von Spakovsky at The Corner

    Will at The League

    UPDATE #3: James Joyner

    UPDATE #4: Julian Sanchez

    UPDATE #5: Zachary Roth at TPM

    UPDATE #6: Alex Pareene at Gawker

    UPDATE #7: Jerry Markon and Stephanie McCrummen at WaPo

    UPDATE #8: David Ingram at the Blog of Legal Times

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    3 Comments

    Filed under Crime, Immigration, Political Figures

    3 responses to “Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand?

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