Patchogue rebirth overshadowed by immigrant’s slaying

n a once-desolate stretch of Main Street in Patchogue, check local officials just two weeks ago joined business owners to break ground on a new YMCA, a $19.2 million anchor to the downtown’s western side.

County Executive Steve Levy said the project would make Patchogue “a destination place, there ” bringing energy and business downtown.

It is the latest step in Patchogue’s revitalization, a process that has seen store vacancies on Main Street shrink from about 50 percent 12 years ago to less than 20 percent today. Soon, ground could be broken on the biggest breakthrough yet: a seven-story or higher hotel on the site of the former Swezey’s department store, along with 250 housing units and tens of thousands of feet of new stores.

But in the past week, the village’s upswing was overshadowed by the killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, 37, in what Suffolk police have labeled a hate crime.

Some members of the Spanish-speaking community, even longtime residents, have come forward to say they feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, but often are hesitant to go to the police for fear of deportation. And the village mayor has embarked on a door-to-door campaign in Hispanic districts to assure residents that the village cares about their welfare.

The Nov. 8 killing has shaken the blue-collar, bay-side community, where for decades whites and a growing Latino population have co-existed in seeming harmony.

“We are one of the few communities where the intertwining of the two communities has worked very well,” said Fernando Quinones, a deacon at St. Frances de Sales Roman Catholic Church and coordinator of the Brookhaven Hispanic Ministry. “It’s surprising to see something like this happen. It comes as such a shock.”

It is a sentiment repeated over and over in conversations with local residents, business people and officials. Unlike nearby Farmingville, which is marked by tensions between white residents and a recent influx of Mexican day laborers, in Patchogue the melding of ethnic groups seemed to be working.

“I’ve lived here 78 years and we’ve never had anything like this before,” said Abie Siegal, owner of the family-run Blum’s clothing store, where he has worked since 1951. “It’s a very diverse community that has been getting along for many years.”

Still, in the wake of Lucero’s killing, stories have emerged of Latinos who say they have been harassed, beaten, cursed or spat upon. Said Flavio Lojano, who lives near the site of the Lucero stabbing: “This is not right, fighting between Spanish and American people.”

Lori Devlin, a village trustee, said employees at Gallo Tropical, a Colombian restaurant on Main Street, have told of attacks. “We were surprised to learn how much of their employees have been beaten up,” she said. “No one should think they can’t safely walk home from work.”

Latinos started arriving in Patchogue in significant numbers with an influx of Puerto Ricans in the 1950s. They were followed in the 1980s by Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their home countries.

By the early to mid-1990s, Ecuadoreans started arriving, and today they make up the largest segment of the Latino population, said the Rev. Andrew Connolly, who used to work at St. Frances de Sales.

Census figures show Latinos have increased from 14 percent of Patchogue’s population in 1990 to 24 percent in 2000. Mayor Paul Pontieri estimates it may be 30 percent today.

Some locals note the some of alleged attackers came not from Patchogue but neighboring Medford, without a tradition of diversity and integration. But problems that some associate with the influx of Latinos – complaints of overcrowded housing, for example – anger some residents in both places.

“Main Street is like Mexico, basically,” said Nancy Tanzey, who has lived in Patchogue for 25 years. “There’s three or four families living in one house.”

Still, Quinones said Latinos and whites often mingle. He noted that St. France de Sales holds an annual bilingual Thanksgiving Day Mass, and another each year with an outdoor picnic. It’s attended by Latinos and whites, and features Spanish food along with traditional American fare.

By all accounts, the village has made great strides toward turning itself into another Huntington or Babylon with a bustling downtown and trendy restaurants. The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, for instance, a 1920s vaudeville theater that reopened in 1998 after being closed for more than a decade, welcomed 135,000 people last year. That is twice the patronage in 2004, when Pontieri took office, he said.

Scores of affordable apartments and condos have sprung up between Main Street and the Long Island Rail Road station – the same station that was near the site of the attack on Lucero.

Pontieri, who spent the week at rallies, vigils and church services, said he believes the 115-year-old village can overcome the tragedy, although it won’t be easy. “Will it be a temporary stain?” he said. “I’m a supreme optimist.”

Greg Warrington, 26, who in September opened another of Patchogue’s new restaurants, the Pura Vida Burrito Co., agreed. “A few idiots in the high school can’t define what Patchogue is. It’s a melting pot of different cultures,” he said. “It would be a shame if this town is depicted as having a lot of underlying hatred.”

ACLU ruffles some O.C. feathers

American Civil Liberties Union has settled 4 high-profile cases in past 2 months.



Three years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union was a distant entity with little or no connections in Orange County.

But that has changed since September 2005 when the ACLU decided to set up in a small office suite on Chapman Avenue in Orange with two attorneys and one legal assistant.

This group has handled at least 10 cases since, not counting others that were resolved before a lawsuit was filed. In the last two months, ACLU attorneys have settled four high-profile Orange County cases. They have represented a Buddhist congregation in Garden Grove seeking to build a temple in an office complex, day laborers in Lake Forest, a Christian group that was banned from feeding the homeless in Doheny State Beach and a man who was thrown out of a Costa Mesa City Council meeting.

The group’s entry into Orange County has been a long time coming, said Ramona Ripston, executive director of ACLU Southern California.

“Orange County has changed dramatically over the years,” Ripston said. “However, we continue to deal with the same issues we have dealt with since the ’70s – race, poverty and rights for the underprivileged.”

ACLU Orange County has also tackled other issues in the last three years, says attorney Hector Villagra, who heads the local office.

Villagra says one of the first cases they took on involved a controversial program proposed by the Fullerton School District, which required parents to spend $1,500 to equip their children with laptop computers. A group of parents, who believed they were being scrutinized and discriminated against by the school district over their reluctance to pay for the laptops, approached the ACLU, which was able to reach an agreement with the school district to make the program accessible to all students.

That case, in fact, was pivotal in introducing the ACLU to all segments of the Orange County population, including conservative Christians such as Sandra Dingess, who admits she had certain pre-conceived notions about the ACLU.

“I had this stereotypical notion of the ACLU, that they were always the devil’s advocate, on the wrong side of issues,” says the Fullerton parent, who at the time was faced with putting $6,000 on her credit card to laptops for four children. “But in this case, they protected my rights and my children’s rights.”

Jim Seiler, a member of Christian group Welcome INN, said ACLU was a last resort for him and other members of his group, who were stopped by state park officials in February from feeding the homeless on Doheny State Beach. The group fed at least 50 people on the beach each evening, Monday through Friday, he said.

“I’d always thought of the ACLU as representing atheists and groups of people whose ideas I don’t subscribe to,” Seiler said. “I was shocked that they offered to help us.”

Although ACLU won some hearts in conservative quarters, their most vehement critics remain local city officials and those with strong positions on the immigration issue.

The ACLU sued the city of Lake Forest and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department over a city ordinance that barred laborers from soliciting work on Lake Forest sidewalks. City Councilman Richard Dixon says his experience with the ACLU in that case left a bitter taste in his mouth. He said the city wasn’t enforcing the ordinance.

ACLU filed a frivolous lawsuit that benefited no one and cost taxpayers heavily, Dixon said.

“Maybe some of their lawsuits are beneficial,” he said. “But by and large, I find them trying to grandstand and chest-pound when they don’t need to be pounding their chests. It’s complete nonsense. In our case, thankfully, truth and justice won over stupidity.”

The protracted lawsuit ended in August when the city and the sheriff’s department agreed to allow the day laborers to solicit work on public sidewalks as long as they followed the law.

In other instances where the ACLU was involved, there were issues of conflict between local government and federal laws. The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year against the city of Garden Grove challenging their zoning laws for denying a building permit to a Buddhist temple on Chapman Avenue.

Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, who represented the temple on behalf of the ACLU, said the city violated the temple members’ rights to congregate and practice their religion. This case culminated in a settlement agreement in September with the city agreeing to give the temple another chance to apply for a permit, which would be “considered favorably.”

But Garden Grove Councilman Mark Rosen, who voted against that agreement in closed session, said the case should have gone to trial.

“As a councilman, I wanted to see the federal law challenged,” he said. “I don’t believe federal government should interfere with decisions that are made by local governments.”

Escobosa-Helzer said she found, especially during this case, that having an office in Orange County helps her interact and communicate better with clients.

In the future, Villagra says his office will continue to be involved with issues such as education, immigrant rights and rights of those in jail. Recently, his office sent out a letter to the sheriff’s department alerting them to a complaint from inmates that they were being forced to share razor blades.

“There was a legitimate concern of HIV and Hepatitis,” he said. “But that issue was resolved with a letter.”

Their goal in Orange County is also to build ties with the community, Escobosa-Helzer said.

“It helps us recognize the problems in different communities and ways to find solutions,” she said.

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or

Herndon’s Headache

The town may take another ill-advised swipe at day laborers.

Washington Post
Friday, August 22, 2008; Page A16

HERNDON OFFICIALS shouldn’t be surprised that day laborers are again crowding the town’s streets. When Herndon opened a center that connected employers with day laborers in 2005, the western Fairfax County town of 23,000 people — about a third of whom are Hispanic — found a sensible way to deal with an unregulated scramble for jobs that sed onto the town’s sidewalks. It also found itself at the focal point of a national debate about illegal immigration. Critics said the group that operated the center should check the immigration status of the laborers. Town officials shut the center last year. Now many of the officials who fought to close the center are scrambling for answers as they consider whether to take another ill-advised swipe at immigrants.

The reappearance of the laborers, who observers say number between 50 and 100, has irritated some citizens and officials. Most of the workers wait on Elden Street, where many of the town’s busiest retailers are located. But people have a constitutional right to seek jobs in public, so council member Dennis D. Husch has proposed a number of oblique approaches to make their lives difficult, such as attempting to remove pay phones and confiscating bicycles chained to trees and sign posts. He also suggests limiting alcohol s in the area where the laborers gather. Mayor Stephen J. DeBenedittis didn’t dismiss the suggestions but told us that he was hesitant to do anything to make the town less pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. Groups that support the laborers say that such rules are discriminatory and would probably be struck down in court.

Mr. Husch’s proposal is an unwitting admission that closing the center was a mistake. The center, which taught laborers English and provided them with small comforts such as coffee, kept workers from loitering. Before it opened, laborers jostled for work each morning outside a local 7-Eleven. It was a chaotic scene, and there were reports of public urination, fistfights and other misconduct. There haven’t been similar reports of misconduct since the center closed, but some residents say that the situation is worse now, because the laborers don’t confine themselves to the 7-Eleven.

The failure of the federal government to fix the immigration mess in Fairfax Countyand across the country has put a burden on local officials. But they still have options. They can embrace practical solutions, such as the laborer center. Or they can follow Herndon’s floundering example.

Big Boxes and Day Laborers

By The Editorial Board


The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday afternoon passed an ordinance requiring the biggest big-box home-improvement stores — Home Depot, and in other words — to deal with the problems caused when groups of day laborers gather outside to look for work.

The new law does not explicitly require the creation of day-laborer hiring sites — rudimentary, roped-off areas with shade, water, toilets and benches — but that is what the stores would most likely do to comply with the new rule. The ordinance makes the stores responsible for keeping their parking lots safe, clean and orderly for the mingling of contractors, pers and day laborers.

It’s smart for several reasons:

Basic crowd-and-vehicle control. It’s never a good idea to have dozens of men looking for work in vast, barren parking lots without trash cans or toilets. Ad-hoc hiring sites can be unsightly, chaotic, and dangerous. But setting up amenities for day laborers has been controversial, because immigration hard-liners bitterly resist simple measures that might help the people they want to lock up and deport. They would prefer to wish away the problem rather than deal with it, as Los Angeles has.

Justice and dignity for day laborers — and other low-wage workers, both immigrant and native-born. Day labor can be a brutally hard way to make a living. But rock-bottom pay, cruel working conditions and wage-and-hour abuses — the kinds of things that make Lou Dobbs weep for the native-born American worker — are discouraged when day laborers have safe, well-run places to look for work. The idea is to deny bottom-feeding employers the opportunity to exploit people off the books and out of sight, and that is exactly what hiring sites do.

There are strong practical reasons for giving day laborers basic shelter, but there is a powerful moral argument, too. Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, based in Los Angeles, puts it eloquently: “If you accept my labor, you must accept my humanity.”

Customers should not weep for Home Depot, a chain whose very business model — selling building supplies in bulk — encourages and benefits from day labor. The company has profited immensely in the globalized world and crosses borders with ease — far more easily than, say, the hard-working immigrant men so many of its customers rely on for help with drywall, painting, landscaping and other manual jobs.

Other communities with day-laborer problems should look at what Los Angeles has done, and follow its good example. It was a long battle, but worth it.

“It took four years to get a four-page ordinance,” said a relieved Bernard Parks, the city councilman who sponsored it, just before the successful vote.

Council passes day-labor center ordinance

By Sid Garcia 

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Wednesday’s vote ends four years of laboring over how to regulate day laborers at large home improvement stores.

The City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that requires home-improvement stores such as The Home Depot, clinic Lowe’s, Osh and others more than 100,000 square feet in size to set aside space for day-laborer shelters. The shelters must include drinking water, bathrooms, tables, seating and garbage cans, and must be close to the store location.

The 15-member City Council voted for the ordinance unanimously Wednesday.

“It is not an ordinance that impacts or takes into account a person’s immigration status,” said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks. “It’s not an ordinance that mandates shelters. It merely gives communities the ability to have input in the conditional-use process.” 

 Supporters say labor centers at these stores will make it safer for the workers, and those seeking to hire them.

“The proposed ordinance requires only that there’s a plan upfront before a store opens,” said Pablo Alvarado, member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “That is an essential first step to ensure that we have successful day laborer centers in our city.”

“As this economy gets worse, I will tell you, there will be more people who want to find day work, and I think that this is a good ordinance. I think it makes sense,” said City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The ordinance goes to Mayor Villaraigosa; once the ordinance is signed by the mayor, the ordinance becomes law and goes into effect in 30 days. It also requires store developers to look into the need for security.

This ordinance, according to Parks, will save the city around $2 million per year in litigation and solve other problems day laborers congregating at home-improvement stores cause.

City News Service contributed to this report. 

Day Laborer Ordinance Receives Approval

Published on

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The Los Angeles City Council has approved an ordinance that could be used to require home improvement stores to provide shelter, patient water and bathrooms for day laborers looking for work.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, says that big box stores like Home Depot built in the future receive “conditional-use” permits, which would allow city officials to impose the restrictions.

Councilman Bernard Parks who first proposed the ordinance four years ago says it is the first move of many to try to improve conditions for such workers.

A group of day laborers in the council chambers cheered the decision.
Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher expressed her company’s
disappointment, saying the issue is more “complicated than placing mandates on businesses.”

L.A. adopts day laborer rules for home improvement stores

The law could require such firms as Home Depot and Lowe’s to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, ed bathrooms and trash cans at new stores. Each site will be evaluated independently.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 14, 2008

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday requiring certain home improvement stores to develop plans for dealing with day laborers who congregate nearby in search of jobs.

The ordinance mandates that proposed big-box stores obtain conditional-use permits, which could then require them to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, bathrooms and trash cans. 

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who first proposed the ordinance four years ago, said that this was just the first phase and that he planned to address existing home improvement stores next. He said the businesses needed to be held accountable for their role in attracting dayworkers.

The vote prompted a standing ovation by dozens of day laborers in the council chambers. The move came after years of debate and negotiations among city leaders, Home Depot officials and dayworker advocates over who should be responsible for public safety and nuisance issues created by workers gathered in parking lots and on sidewalks and street corners.

“This is an important day,” said Councilman Eric Garcetti. “This is an example for the nation.”

Cities nationwide have taken different approaches to the issue. Some have tried to restrict where workers can gather, while others have built hiring halls.

Home Depot officials said they were disappointed by the L.A. council’s vote and said they shouldn’t be solely responsible for addressing the challenges presented by day laborers.

“This is a broader social issue that goes beyond Home Depot, and the solution is certainly more complicated than placing mandates on businesses,” said company spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher.

Nevertheless, senior manager Francisco Uribe pledged to work with city leaders to address the issue.

Dayworker advocates praised the vote, saying the action would make it easier to build worker centers at home improvement stores. There are currently eight centers in the city, each run by a nonprofit organization.

“We welcome it,” said Pablo Alvarado of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “We need it. The workers deserve it.”

Under the ordinance, stores making major renovations or additions could also be required to go through the conditional-use permitting process. The city plans to evaluate each proposed store independently. The city would have to make certain findings, including that there is an existing day laborer population in the vicinity, before requiring a company such as Lowe’s or Home Depot to create “operating standards” to deal with dayworkers.

Stores would not have to make a plan if the city determined that there were not significant numbers of day laborers in the area or that they were not expected to generate increased trash or noise or impede traffic. The ordinance would apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or more.

The issue is also part of the wider debate over illegal immigration.

Marvin Stewart, president of the Minuteman Project, said the ordinance was another example of how the city condones illegal immigration. “All of this is flying in the face of what the city is supposed to be doing in terms of upholding the law,” Stewart said.

But Abel Valenzuela, a UCLA professor who has conducted extensive research on day laborers and supports the ordinance, said the city can expect to see even more such workers as the economy continues to falter. “This isn’t an immigration issue,” he said. “This is a labor market issue.”,0,4167886.story

Ordinance Seeks To Encourage Laborer Shelters


Los Angeles Business Journal Staff

Major new home improvement stores opening in the city of Los Angeles may have to build shelters for day laborers under a City Council ordinance approved Wednesday.

Under the ordinance, proposed by Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Ed Reyes and passed unanimously, all proposed home improvement stores of more than 100,000 square feet would have to obtain a conditional use permit from the city. Most Home Depot, Lowe’s and other big box home improvement stores would meet this threshold.

In order to obtain the permit, the developers of the stores would have to present plans to address the issue of day laborers congregating on the property and waiting to be picked up for jobs. These plans could include building shelters for day laborers that include bathroom facilities, though the ordinance does not specifically mandate that such shelters be built.

Several councilmembers said they also wanted to see an ordinance addressing day laborer issues at existing home improvement stores. Parks and Reyes said that issue would be dealt with at a later date, after the current ordinance is implemented.

Council demands big box stores build day labor shelters

Contra Costa Times

By Rick Orlov, Daily News

Article Launched: 08/13/2008 02:05:38 PM PDT

In the first step to control day laborers at large home improvement stores, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a measure that could require big box stores to develop centers to provide shelter for the workers.

The measure, which several officials said was aimed at Home Depot and its 11 stores in the city, will apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or larger that will be built – or if existing stores are undergoing major renovation.

The measure still requires the mayor’s signature. Most city laws take effect 30 days afterward.

But Councilman Bernard Parks, who spearheaded the four-year push for the measure, said he saw it as the first step toward requiring existing stores to create similar centers.

“Phase Two is aimed at those stores,” Parks said. “The city now is spending about $2 million a year for day labor centers – money that could be better used on police or streets or parks in the city.

“We should have the companies pay the costs of these centers.”

A Home Depot spokesman said the company is concerned that all home improvement stores be treated the same and their company not be singled out.

“We aren’t the only home improvement store,” spokesman Francisco Uribe said. “What we wanted was something where all stakeholders could be included and we discuss what is in this measure.”

But Parks and several other council members cited Home Depot as the source of the problem. 

“Let’s be honest here,” Councilman Richard Alarcon said. “The problem we have is with Home Depot – which has not managed a phenomena essentially created by their marketing and targeting of customers that need day laborers.

“I believe that is essentially what is causing this problem and I would love to take on Home Depot directly on this.”

Uribe said he did not agree with Alarcon’s comments and the firm is trying to work with the city on the issues.

City planning officials said they would be looking at existing nuisance laws to see if the city can require day labor centers in areas where there are problems.

Parks tried to diffuse some of the expected criticism, saying the measure had nothing to do with immigration issues.

“We are not using this to protect illegal immigrants,” Parks said. “This is about providing dignity for workers and controlling a problem we have where there are no shelters.”

Parks said his office has received complaints about workers congregating at sites and having no bathroom facilities or protection from the weather.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl used the debate to se an agreement from Uribe to have discussions about Home Depot providing a day labor center at its store in his district.

“This is the busiest Home Depot in America,” Rosendahl said. “They agreed to have community meetings to discuss what can be done.”

Rosendahl said he also is looking at using other city funds to create more day labor centers in his district.

“The truth is the way the economy is going, we are going to see more day laborers, not less,” Rosendahl said.

“We need to make sure we can provide a place for them where they can maintain their dignity.”

Reasonable Doubt Part III: Sweeps and saturation patrols violate federal civil rights regulations

Paul Giblin, for Ryan Gabrielson, East Valley Tribune

One Monday morning in December, health the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office sent several of its most highly trained deputies to arrest day laborers. The human smuggling unit, police dogs and even the SWAT team spent hours swarming the intersection of Thomas Road and 36th Street, a primarily Hispanic neighborhood in Phoenix. The sheriff’s office had conducted major operations there for weeks, using minor traffic violations as legal cover to stop cars that might carry illegal immigrants.

But the deputies’ work that morning, as with dozens of similar MCSO immigration patrols across the county, violated federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling, a Tribune investigation found.

>> U.S. Department of Justice: Guidance regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies (PDF)

Those regulations specifically forbid crackdowns like Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “crime suppression/anti-illegal immigration sweeps” unless there is “reliable, empirical data” that serious crime is taking place. That’s defined as 911 calls and crime statistics based on reports, among other things.

But the sheriff’s office conducts large-scale operations without any evidence of criminal activity. The sweeps are billed as crackdowns on general crime, primarily in neighborhoods where many Hispanics live and work.

That’s exactly what federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement rules are designed to prevent.

And although Arpaio and his top officers admit they ignore the rules, ICE says MCSO is following its federal contract.

Last year, ICE partnered with MCSO to make 100 of the sheriff’s detectives and patrol deputies — and 60 detention officers — sworn federal agents, too. The deputies now have broad authority to arrest illegal immigrants under federal law.

The federal power comes with strict rules, but sheriff’s officials say they don’t necessarily follow them, especially when the rules conflict with what Arpaio thinks his agency needs to be doing and what he thinks Maricopa County residents want.

“Our response to the public for violations of state law come before that contract,” said Deputy Chief Brian Sands, head of the sheriff’s law enforcement division.

But MCSO’s immigration arrests this year are increasingly for federal, not state, violations, reports that the deputies send to ICE show.

When asked about the way MCSO is using its federal authority, ICE officials say the deputies have followed every condition in the agencies’ contract. However, they won’t discuss ICE policy about when the federal authority can be used to make traffic stops. Instructions that local agencies are to follow were removed from the agency’s Web site earlier this year.

“In our determination, our partnerships — and that includes everyone beyond Maricopa County as well — our partners are within the bounds” of their contracts with ICE, said Vincent Picard, the federal immigration agency’s Arizona spokesman.



MCSO’s contract includes a section titled “Civil Rights Procedures.”

It explains that when local police officers act as immigration agents, they are “bound” to follow all federal civil rights laws and rules. Those rules bar agents from using racial stereotypes as justification to conduct major operations.

To illustrate the type of operations that violate the regulation, the civil rights field guide for federal agents describes an instance where local police, attempting to catch offenders, make a large number of traffic stops in a particular neighborhood.

“The choice of neighborhood was not based on the number of 911 calls, number of arrests or other pertinent reporting data specific to the area,” the field guide says. Instead, the choice was based on the residents’ race.

To make such an operation legal, the field guide says agents must have trustworthy evidence proving crimes are taking place.

That’s not generally the case in Maricopa County, where the sheriff’s office has conducted saturation patrols and immigration sweeps mainly in Hispanic neighborhoods or in areas where day laborers gather. Arpaio has said he chooses the areas because business owners or politicians have asked him to come in.

But MCSO’s sweeps could be textbook examples in the federal field guide of what not to do. Arrest reports and e-mails sent regularly to ICE by deputies document that “reliable, empirical data” is nonexistent. Instead, deputies either don’t justify the operation or say it is in response to business owners’ complaints.

>> Human smuggling unit reports emailed to ICE detailing the saturation patrol in front of M.D. Pruitt’s in Phoenix (PDF)

On Oct. 22, for example, Arpaio sent the human smuggling unit to Fountain Hills.

The unit’s detectives had spent a year scouring rural highways in search of smugglers and their human cargo. But none of the smugglers’ known routes pass through Fountain Hills, where Arpaio lives. Most are on the other side of the county.

The operation was “based on information from local businesses in reference to the day laborers in the area,” Lt. Joseph Sousa wrote in an e-mail to Jason Kidd, ICE’s acting special agent in charge in Arizona.

Sousa, head of the human smuggling unit, went on to explain how deputies in patrol cars watched for vehicles that appeared to pick up illegal immigrants. Then, once they spotted a vehicle picking someone up, detectives in undercover cars “would establish probable cause for a traffic stop.”

Earlier that same month, MCSO dispatched deputies to do the same in front of M.D. Pruitt’s Furniture in Phoenix.

The store, at the southeast corner of Thomas Road and 36th Street, had long struggled with crowds of illegal immigrants that sed over from a nearby day labor center. The workers would loiter beside Pruitt’s parking lot, prompting customer complaints.

The store’s owners, Roger Sensing and his son, Mike, hired off-duty sheriff’s deputies after their negotiations with the day labor center and Phoenix officials broke down in early October.

Then, on Oct. 15, MCSO sent the human smuggling deputies on an operation to make immigration arrests there, reports show.

Immigrant rights activists soon followed to protest Arpaio and his anti-illegal immigration operations.

The sheriff’s office continued regular operations near Pruitt’s until January, announcing illegal immigrant arrest totals in news releases. Arpaio has since conducted similar operations in other parts of Phoenix, Guadalupe and — last month — in Mesa.

The Sensings did not respond to requests for an interview despite Tribune reporters calling them on the phone and visiting their furniture store.



In July 2007, the sheriff’s office opened an illegal immigration hotline that allowed people to call in complaints. MCSO officials say thousands of calls flooded the system, primarily about day laborers.

Arpaio says his office has not reacted to residents’ individual complaints about loitering illegal immigrants. But arrest reports show deputies have repeatedly responded with large-scale patrols when business owners call from Fountain Hills and Phoenix.

“Whether you call that evidence or not, I don’t know,” Arpaio said. “It’s intelligence we are receiving, so we don’t act on it all the time.”

Early this year, Guadalupe residents saw a marked increase in the amount of dealing in their neighborhoods, and pushed the sheriff’s office for more enforcement, said Santino Bernasconi, a member of the town’s public safety committee.

Instead, in early April, MCSO sent its human smuggling unit to the urban community of Hispanics and Yaqui Indians for a saturation patrol. Deputies stopped vehicles for minor traffic offenses in order to question the occupants about their immigration status, reports show.

“We got some calls on some of these violent crimes that were illegals. So I figured, ‘Wait a minute. We have a crime problem, illegal immigration probably, so let’s do suppression there,” Arpaio said.

Brian Sands, the MCSO law enforcement chief, said rising crime figures for the town justified the operation.

However, the monthly reports on criminal activity that the sheriff’s office provides to Guadalupe only show an increase in aggravated assaults and burglaries, not the kinds of crimes that officers would address through a sweep.

Then in June, dozens of MCSO deputies conducted a long anticipated two-day sweep through Mesa. This time, the operation came at the request of seven East Valley lawmakers who wrote a letter to Arpaio in April asking for immigration enforcement in their communities. One of the legislators was Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who last year helped se more than $1 million in state funding for MCSO’s immigration work.

The Mesa sweeps were a favor to officials who helped the sheriff’s office, Arpaio told the Tribune after the letter was made public.

“I have a strange old philosophy that if someone does something for you, gives you resources, gives you money, I think if they want something back, we ought to do it,” he said.

Pearce said the quid pro quo of immigration enforcement in exchange for state taxpayer dollars was appropriate.

“That’s what they’re for,” said Pearce, a former MCSO deputy himself. “It was approved by the Legislature. I expect him to use those funds for what they’re there for — that’s enforcement.”

ICE officials declined to comment on Arpaio’s statements about the Mesa operations, during which deputies used their federal powers to apprehend 28 illegal immigrants.

“We don’t respond to a politician’s public comments,” Picard said.



In 1996, Congress changed federal immigration law to allow ICE, then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to partner with state and local police. The provision — named “287(g)” after the section of law that created it — certifies local officers as federal immigration agents once they’ve received training.

But ICE didn’t partner with a single police department until 2003.

The few that expressed interest in such partnerships never followed through, said Doris Meissner, INS commissioner during the Clinton administration.

At the time, much of the country opposed aggressive immigration enforcement, she said.

And INS outright prohibited its agents from targeting day laborers after the infamous “Chandler Roundup,” a 1997 operation in the East Valley city where the Hispanic population was growing quickly.

In July 1997, the U.S. Border Patrol teamed with the Chandler Police Department to arrest illegal immigrants. In one week, officers arrested 432 illegal immigrants and stopped hundreds of other Hispanic citizens.

The operation met with local and national outrage over the civil rights violations, and lawsuits soon followed. In a settlement stemming from the roundup, Chandler agreed to never again allow its police department to enforce federal immigration law. And MCSO has not conducted any sweeps in Chandler.

But other communities that had been hesitant to tackle immigration enforcement found themselves in a different situation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“That changed after 9/11, when there was much more emphasis placed on the links between immigration and national security.” Meissner said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement stepped up first.

Several of the terrorists who participated in the 9/11 attacks had lived in Florida with expired visas. The state agency wanted the ability to make immigration arrests if, in the course of regular police work, officers came across people in the country illegally.

The federal government was happy for the help. ICE is chronically understaffed, as was its predecessor, the INS, said Kris Kobach, former special counsel to the U.S. Attorney General.

In that job from 2001 to 2003, Kobach helped negotiate ICE’s first two partnerships with state police agencies in Florida and Alabama.

Alabama had only three ICE agents stationed there in 2003, Kobach said, when the state’s department of public safety applied to partner with the immigration agency.

Today, 60 of Alabama’s state troopers have the authority to make federal immigration arrests. The troopers do not conduct operations specifically targeting illegal immigrants, said Dorris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama agency, but check the legal status of those they stop in the course of their regular duties.

Teague said her agency specifically does not do large-scale operations or raids.

“This doesn’t interfere with the troopers’ normal duties, but it does enhance immigration enforcement,” Teague said.

What Alabama is doing is what ICE had in mind when it first started partnering with local police.

Three years ago, a top ICE official told Congress the agency would prevent local police from undertaking the kind of work MCSO now does.

Paul M. Kilcoyne, then an assistant director of investigations for ICE, told lawmakers in July 2005 the partnerships were intended to assist the federal agency’s work.

ICE’s field offices would keep close watch on the local officers they train so “that we are not out there doing roundups or just general immigration work,” Kilcoyne said in testimony before the House homeland security committee.

MCSO’s contract with the federal agency supports that expectation. It stipulates that ICE agents will “supervise and direct” deputies when they conduct immigration operations.

But that’s not happening.

The sheriff’s office files reports to ICE when it makes illegal immigration arrests, but agents are not present. “We obviously don’t supervise them doing their operations,” said Kidd, the ICE agent who oversees the partnership with MCSO.

Lack of close supervision isn’t the only area where ICE isn’t making MCSO follow the rules.

In September, the federal agency said local police cannot use traffic stops to make immigration arrests.

That month, ICE released a fact sheet about its “287(g)” partnerships that details what local police can and cannot do under the program.

“Officers trained and certified in the 287(g) program may use their authority when dealing with someone suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense,” the document said.

Since October, deputies have used their ICE authority to make federal immigration arrests on several hundred occasions during traffic stops for minor offenses, like cracked windshields and failure to signal a turn, MCSO reports show.

ICE officials declined to explain the discrepancy.

“I know this isn’t quite what you are looking for, but ICE has decided that we have provided sufficient input for your article,” Picard wrote in response to the Tribune’s questions.

The agency has since removed the September fact sheet from its Web site and replaced it with a document that does not discuss when local police can use their federal powers.



Sweeps and saturation patrols have generated the most public reaction — and media coverage — but roving patrols are MCSO deputies’ primary tactic for arresting illegal immigrants.

Throughout 2006 and most of 2007, the human smuggling unit used roving patrols alone to make hundreds of arrests under the state anti-human smuggling law.

Roving patrols normally begin after dark and concentrate on the largely empty roadways human smugglers use to enter and leave the county, MCSO arrest reports show. Deputies look for vehicles that might carry illegal immigrants — large vans and SUVs, particularly those with darkened windows or sagging rear bumpers.

The U.S. Border Patrol has used the tactic periodically for years, often attracting controversy.

Nearly every aspect of roving patrols point to racial profiling, said Marjorie Zatz, director of Arizona State University’s School of Justice and Social Inquiry.

“They’re trying to go after smugglers, but they’re picking up disproportionately Latinos, whether they’re smuggling or not,” Zatz said.

While civil rights groups speak out against it, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that experienced border agents can make traffic stops based on “articulable facts.”

Those include the characteristics of vehicles and their occupants.

David Stoddard was the agent involved in that pivotal case and worked for the Border Patrol in Tucson for more than 20 years.

Evidence can come in the form of evasive driving or tortilla wrappers thrown out car windows, said Stoddard, who supports Arpaio’s operations.

“The officer on roving patrol categorizes these articulable facts and he can put down on paper to present in a court of law his reasons to make the stop, or make an arrest,” Stoddard said.

In interviews, top MCSO officials including Arpaio don’t seem to be aware of the Supreme Court ruling and the leeway it gave officers in the field.

Sheriff’s deputies don’t cite such evidence when making immigration stops. Instead, the human smuggling unit lists minor traffic offenses as probable cause during roving patrols as well.

“You can’t stop a car unless you have a violation of criminal or traffic laws,” Sousa, head of the unit, said.

Sands, the MCSO law enforcement chief, said deputies should be trying to come up with probable cause beyond suspicion of immigration violations.

“A lot of our guys have made so many arrests, our human smuggling people, that they are now experts in that field, although they typically don’t like to make contact without some kind of contextual reason to do that,” Sands said.

And the probable causes they do cite were little more than afterthoughts once they decide to make a stop, internal e-mails and interviews with MCSO’s human smuggling detectives show.

During 2006 and 2007, deputies cited license plate issues on nearly a third of the 71 traffic stops that led to human smuggling arrests, according to a database of the sheriff’s criminal immigration arrests. Burned-out license plate lights alone accounted for 10 percent of the deputies’ probable causes.

MCSO officials insist they do not racially profile and are operating within the law. “We’re very cautious. We’re going the extra mile on this,” Arpaio said.

But the fact that deputies must search for probable cause to justify traffic stops is, itself, the problem, said Marjorie Zatz, the ASU justice professor.

“They’re not looking for everyone who’s speeding, everyone who’s changing lanes and then saying, ‘Oh, some of these people are undocumented,’” she said. “They’re instead trying to find a way to go after as many undocumented people as they can. That’s what makes it racial profiling.”