NDLON in the News

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Protesters Take On America’s Toughest Sheriff

Huffington Post

On Saturday, thousands of protesters walked the streets of Phoenix to air their displeasure with America’s toughest sheriff, whose crackdown on the city’s immigrant population has won him consistently high approval ratings from his constituents in Maricopa County.

The anger of local residents came across in one image that depicted Sheriff Joe in a white Ku Klux Klan robe. Latino protesters held signs stating, “We Are Humans,” while the most popular sign read, “Stop Racial Profiling NOW!” Supporters of the sheriff took up residence on two street corners and held signs that read, “We Support Joe,” as protesters walked by.

In mid-February, Democrats in Congress, including Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for an investigation into Sheriff Arpaio’s activities around immigrant arrests due to allegations of racial profiling and other civil rights abuses.

The Huffington Post received exclusive video of the protest from Amie Williams at Bal Maiden Films

Arpaio has also been denounced for using volunteer “chain gangs” and housing inmates in tent cities. These severe tactics led Fox to give Arpaio his own reality show entitled, “Smile… You’re Under Arrest!”

The backbone of Sheriff Arpaio’s vast influence stems from an agreement between the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The 287(g) provision allows federally-trained and supervised state and local law enforcement officials to investigate, apprehend, transport, and detain people who are living and working in the country without authorization. Protesters hope their demonstration will lead to further investigations into alleged crimes committed under the 287(g) provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.



Report Questions Immigration Program

Published: March 3, 2009

PHOENIX — A government report questions the effectiveness of a federal program, long criticized by immigrant advocacy groups, that deputizes police officers as immigration agents.

The report, prepared by theGovernment Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says the government has failed to determine how many of the thousands of people deported under the program were the kind of violent felons it was devised to root out.

Some law enforcement agencies had used the program to deport immigrants “who have committed minor crimes, such as carrying an open container of alcohol,” the report said, and at least four agencies referred minor traffic offenders for deportation.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already ordered a review of the program. The report was released Wednesday before a top official at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is set to testify at a Congressional hearing in the afternoon.

Known as 287(g), a reference to the section of a 1996 law authorizing it, the program has been promoted by immigration officials as an important tool in deporting serious criminals. It has also enjoyed the strong support of some local law enforcement agencies, including here in Maricopa County, where the sheriff operates the largest program, with 160 trained deputies.

But the report said immigration bureau officials had not closely supervised how their agreements with the local agencies had been carried out, had inconsistently described the program’s goals and had failed to spell out what data should be tracked, collected and reported.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, to which the immigration agency referred calls, did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages. In a response included in the report, agency officials said they had put in place changes, many of them late last year, that address the report’s findings.

The officials said the agency supported the report’s five recommendations, including clarifying the circumstances under which 287(g) authority should be used, spelling out the agency’s supervisory role and establishing ways to measure performance. The agency said it would release details in the next two months on how it would improve the program, which received $54 million from Congress this year.

The report analyzed 29 of the 67 local law enforcement agencies in the program. It found that they arrested 43,000 illegal immigrants last year, including 34,000 taken into custody by the immigration bureau.

Of the 34,000, the report said, about 41 percent were put in removal proceedings, 44 percent waived their right to a hearing and were immediately deported, and 15 percent were released for reasons including humanitarian grounds, the “minor nature of their crime” and their having been sentenced to prison.

Citing lapses in data collection, the G.A.O. was unable to determine how many of the arrested immigrants were suspected of committing serious crimes.

The 287(g) law authorizes the immigration agency to train local and state law enforcement to use its databases to determine legal status and take the first steps in deportation proceedings, but it does not specify which kinds of illegal immigrants to focus on.

The G.A.O. report said senior managers at the agency told investigators the main goal of the program was curtailing violent crimes, human smuggling, gang activity, smuggling and other high-priority offenses. But the agency, the report said, had failed to document that goal clearly in its agreements with the agencies.

Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, which will hold the hearing on Wednesday, said in a statement that “the record is incomplete, at best, as to whether this program is a success.”

“Without objective data, we cannot evaluate the effectiveness of this program, nor can we determine whether better results could be achieved by other means, such as increasing the number of ICE agents,” he said.

The report did not conclude whether local agencies in the program had engaged in racial profiling, a top concern Mr. Thompson has raised before and a chief complaint in Maricopa County.

Sheriff’s deputies here have arrested thousands of illegal immigrants, many of whom were stopped for traffic violations, in sweeps that have led to lawsuits accusing the department of racial profiling.

Use of the program has accelerated in recent years as the immigration debate intensified. It has grown to 67 agencies in 23 states with more than 950 deputized officers, from 5 law enforcement agencies in 2005; there is a waiting list of 42 agencies.

Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, who was instrumental in getting the program started in 1996, said, “Law enforcement officials believe that this voluntary program works.” He added, “Those who are serious about public safety should call for its expansion.”

The G.A.O.’s criticism largely mirrored the findings of recent analyses by independent groups, including a report last week by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research foundation in Brooklyn. It found, among other problems, that the program might actually strain local resources because people who have not committed a serious crime are being held on immigration charges.



Federal government takes a hard look at local police enforcement of immigration law

SF Gate.com

A federal program that deputized dozens of state and local police agencies to enforce immigration law is coming under new scrutiny in Washington, pharm where government investigators say the Department of Homeland Security has failed to properly supervise its local partners or make clear that they are to go after serious criminals, not people stopped for speeding or public urination.

The House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing on the program for Wednesday afternoon. Last summer, here the committee requested a Government Accountability Office investigation of the program, known as 287(g), and now it’s expecting to hear about those findings.

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he was concerned about accusations that the policing program has led to racial profiling, the Associated Press reported.

The GAO report found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had not clearly explained to their local partners that the program was supposed to target smugglers and other serious offenders. Instead, state and local law enforcement agencies have been stopping people for minor infractions and turning them over to ICE, according to the AP, which obtained an advance copy of the report.

The 287(g) arrangement gained particular notoriety from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has paraded alleged illegal immigrants in chains and striped suits through downtown Phoenix. His actions recently led four members of Congress to call for an investigation.

Last week, Justice Strategies, a research and advocacy group, released its own scathing analysis, saying the immigration partnership takes local police away from their crime fighting mission. That assessment was echoed by the liberalImmigration Policy Center. The restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, by contrast, has celebrated the program as a way to crack down on immigrant gangs.

Meanwhile Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has called for her agency to review 287(g) among other ICE programs. The debate is sure to heat up as the findings unfold.


Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine Calls on Fans to Turn the Tide Against Hate, Join him in Phoenix, Arizona.

Press Release from The National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Famous Lead Singer to Join National Organizations to Denounce Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Out of Control Intimidation and Humiliation

Press Conference


National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), order Puente Arizona, and and Somos America


Press Conference to Announce National March Against Sheriff Arpaio’s abuses

Sidewalk in front of Sheriff Arpaio’s Headquarters.

100 West Washington, Phoenix Arizona

Tuesday, February 24. 11:00am.

“Recently the nation witnessed the humiliation of migrants in a spectacle evocative of the most horrific episodes of human history,” explains Pablo Alvarado, Director of NDLON.  “People across the country are outraged by the human rights violations in Maricopa County and they are being moved to action.”

In the last month Sheriff Joe Arpaio intensified his on-going attacks against Latinos by segregating the county jail and parading undocumented migrants shackled in a chain-gang into a “tent city.”

Zack de la Rocha responded to the news by saying, “To witness what is happening in Arizona and remain neutral is to be implicated in human rights violations that are occurring right here on US soil. History will not be kind to Joe Arpaio.   He will be remembered with other sheriffs like Bull Connor who subjugated and terrorized communities for shortsighted political gain.  I hope everyone will join me in protesting Sheriff Joe this Saturday.”

National organizations and others will hold an emergency convening this Friday and march in Phoenix, Saturday, February 28th, starting at 9:00am at Steele Indian School Park to call on Secretary Napolitano to revoke Sheriff Arpaio’s 287g agreement and call for an end to the raids.

More details can be found at www.ndlon.org.



The Unconscionable Idiot of the Week Award Goes To…

Saly Kohn
Huffington Post
Feb 5 2009

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona! Congratulations!

This week, having already done everything imaginable to turn himself into a national right-wing celebrity by terrorizing undocumented immigrants, Sheriff Joe turned to the unimaginable. For a pre-arranged media circus, he paraded — that’s right, paraded — undocumented immigrants wearing humiliating old-fashioned prison uniforms and shackles out of the county jail to a “tent city” where they are now being held and awaiting court. Just as Arpaio rounded up immigrants in the county through widespread racial profiling, he has carried that racism to detention by segregation — and singling out — Latino immigrants.

Arpaio claims the measure was a cost-saver, but it’s worth noting that in 2005, he moved 700 prisoners from one prison to another wearing only pink underwear and flip-flops (the prisoners were, that is, not Arpaio). Outraged Maricopa County politicians say the cost-savings are negligible and merely a red herring. “He’s trying to justify this as a ‘budget savings,’ and I’m just appalled,”said County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. “It’s just another publicity stunt.”

Of course the idea that gross violations of human rights might possibly be justified by cost-benefit analyses (see, e.g., the death penalty) or efficiency (see, e.g., torture) has been repeatedly repudiated mathematically. Let alone the moral calculus that apparently is beyond Arpaio’s grade level.

The most noteworthy thing about the photos from the orchestrated show is that the antiquated prison costumes all say “UNSENTENCED.” According to Stephen Lemmons, over 70% of people under Arpaio’s control are all still awaiting trial. What better way to welcome immigrants to America, where everyone is supposedly innocent until proven guilty, than march them in chains to a temporary concentration camp encircled with a high-voltage fence. That will teach you to seek low-wage working picking our vegetables to feed your own family!!!

The “UNSENTENCED” labels in the midst of the “we’re doing everything to portray you as dangerous and guilty” pageantry is the ultimate irony — despite Arapaio’s best attempts, the men he is trying to dehumanize remain human, fathers, brothers, sons trying to pursue the same dreams dangled in front of generations before.

Still, hats off to Sheriff Arpaio who, while he could be spending his time pursuing fraudulent mortgage brokers or mini Madoffs, is doing his part to whip up anti-immigrant furor among those who truly have bigger problems but find scapegoating immigrants much easier than imagining a new economic paradigm of justice for all. What better way to ignore your own shackles than to shackle others. Sheriff Arpaio is a real trailblazer in the right-wing shell game of denial.


Arpaio’s America

The New York Times
Feb. 5 2009

It has come to this: In Phoenix on Wednesday, order more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past agantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. They were inmates being sent to await deportation in a new immigrant detention camp minutes from the center of America’s fifth-largest city.

The judge, and jury and exhibitioner of this degrading spectacle was the Maricopa County sheriff, link Joe Arpaio, the publicity-obsessed star of a Fox reality show and the self-appointed scourge of illegal immigrants. Though he frequently and proudly insists that he answers to no one, except at election time, the sheriff is not an isolated rogue. As a participant in the federal policing program called 287(g), he is an official partner of the United States government in its warped crackdown on illegal immigration.

The immigration enforcement regime left by the Bush Administration is out of control. It is up to President Obama and the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, to rein it in and clean it up. This applies not just to off-the-rails deputies like Sheriff Arpaio, but to the federal enforcement agencies themselves.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol have been shown in recent news accounts to be botching their jobs. Border Patrol agents in California have accused supervisors of setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, and a recent Migration Policy Institute study showed that a much-touted campaign of raids against criminal fugitives was a failure. It netted mostly the maids and laborers who are no reasonable person’s idea of a national threat.

The burden of action is particularly high on Ms. Napolitano, who as Arizona’s governor handled Sheriff Arpaio with a gingerly caution that looked to some of his critics and victims as calculated and timid.

Ms. Napolitano, who is known as a serious and moderate voice on immigration, recently directed her agency to review its enforcement efforts, including looking at ways to expand the 287(g) program. Sheriff Arpaio is a powerful argument for doing just the opposite.

Now that she has left Arizona politics behind, Ms. Napolitano is free to prove this is not Arpaio’s America, where the mob rules and immigrants are subject to ritual humiliation. The country should expect no less.