Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Immigrants Rights/Police Brutality Disconnect

People have been terrorized by police violence since, well, probably the the first police existed. The poorer you are, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to be effected by police brutality, whether directly or in your family. Because the police are viewed/portrayed as infallible and because their victim/survivors are portrayed as criminals, it is seen as okay. The treatment of undocumented people is also seen as okay because they are portrayed as criminals. The law enforcement terrorism brought against undocumented immigrants (and some who are not undocumented) include fear of deportation, separation of family members, bad conditions during detainment, and physical abuse. Getting justice for police brutality or other abuses is nearly hopeless for anyone, but must be so much worse for the undocumented who have rights, yet can just be deported.

While many understand this, somehow, many immigrants' rights advocates separate the issues in their mind. They celebrate politicians/cops who criticize sheriff joe's actions, but excuse the actions of the officers in their jurisdiction, no matter the abuses.

Take Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who, upon finding out about an image-damaging article in Colorlines (Why So High?), denied the findings of their research about the high number of police shootings in Phoenix, particularly those against latinos. (I mentioned it in a previous blog post, High Number of Police Shootings in Phoenix). He insulted families and friends of lost loved ones killed by cops, implying that anyone hurt by the police deserve it because cops are infallible. The mayors' allegations about the data being incorrect were disputed by Colorlines, as discussed in the phoenix-based online publication, Barriozona.
This mayor also intiated a change to the phoenix police department's policy that makes it so that they ask all arrested persons about their immigration status. He was able to save face by being two-faced- criticizing Arpaio's tactics when the timing was right.

How about mesa police chief gascon, also criticizing arpaio's tactics, but not the actual act of immigration enforcement. Just days after the recent sweeps in Mesa, the media reported that Mesa was changing their policy to one that sounds similar to Phoenix's. Gascon hails from L.A. where he was an officer of increasing ranks through the years. He was there for the Rodney King beating and the various other incidents of police brutality. He has been the Mesa PD chief for nearly 2 years, and as far as i know, has not done anything to rectify the 2003 mesa police shooting of Mario Madrigal Jr., who was 15. I hope his family can get some justice. Not very appropriate is the feathered bastards' recollection of the recent mesa sweeps, "Gascon... resembled a rock star, cheered by the crowds and hailed as a hero for his actions." (Source).

Guess who was in the mesa pd when this and several other shooting deaths occurred: Dan saban, the guy who several immigrants rights advocates are helping in some way to campaign to oust arpaio as maricopa county sheriff. Running as a democrat, although a republican most of his life (Source) (and probably still), Saban is being painted as an advocate of immigrants, although really he just feels that it shouldn’t be the job of the police to enforce immigration law. He has said he’d keep tent city (Source) which is one of the worst crimes committed in this county. Sure, he’s probably not as bad a guy as arpaio, but will those who are helping him campaign protest his abuses?

Gerald Richard, a name not well known, might become more popular as his campaign against Andrew Thomas gets more public. He showed up to the Citizen’s Walk for Human Dignity in May to get his petitions signed. Richard was until recently, a legal advisor to the Phoenix PD. Micheal Lacey of the New Times newspaper, who had been acquainted with him for several years said, "He never gave an inch when it came to defending a cop." (Source). Which must be why he played a role in keeping Louie Arriaga Jr. in prison for defending himself against police brutality. Richard apparently claimed that Louie Jr.’s father insulted him and that’s why he opposed a settlement even after the officer involved said he’s cool with Louie going on time served. Luciano Sr. says he has witnesses that he did not disrespect Richard. If you don’t know about Louie’s case, please check out Gerald Richard was quoted as saying “I’m waiting for someone to call me a liberal. Because when they do, I’m going to tell them, ask the guy I put away for 10.5 years how liberal that was. Ask the one who got 15 years how liberal that was.” Looks like he’s got something to prove. Oh, and he also said, before the Phoenix PD policy change on asking about immigration status, that he supported the proposed changes (Source).

It is not a coincidence that these men are being supported by immigrants rights advocates yet they have ties to police brutality. You could pick any cop or politician and they probably have ties to police brutality and they are probably two faced. It’s part of the job. The point is not “don’t vote for that guy, he’s a jerk,” but that none of these people are a solution to the problems facing our communities today. Police and politicians do not stop crime. Crime exists for reasons way beyond their direct control- and actually in many cases they contribute to the reasons for crimes- these reasons include inequality in access to basic needs like food, shelter, and a healthy environment.

I could go on and on about this. I guess if anything, if you have to campaign for or celebrate one of these guys or someone like them, at least keep the perspective that these men are not true choices- just the only choices on the ballot. And show your support for those fighting against police brutality and other various abuses by the system.

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