Saturday, May 30, 2009

If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?

It's one thing after another hitting arpaio these days (such as this lawsuit). But today i came upon another example of why focusing on Arpaio is not the best strategy for immigrants' rights. This came in a guest column in the East Valley Tribune, by the title, The numbers don’t match Arpaio’s hype. The retired police officer who wrote the article blasts arpaio, but not exactly for the reasons you'd imagine. This is an excerpt:

Then the hearing turned into the usual good-old-boy, back-slapping, fanny-kissing festival with an endless stream of platitudes of how Arpaio is leading the charge against illegal immigration and crime...

Arpaio gratuitously thanked Pearce and the Legislature for the $1.6 million he was just given for his immigration sweeps. Arpaio has been given millions by the state for immigration operations, all while the state crime lab is cash strapped and performing poorly...

Even with our millions of dollars and 160 federally certified 287(g) immigration enforcement deputies, Arpaio doesn’t lead the county in immigration arrests. Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris does. Phoenix police arrested more than 7,300 illegal immigrants during 2008. Second place belongs to Mesa police Chief George Gascón, whose officers arrested more than 1,200 illegal immigrants and investigated 60 drop houses last year. Phoenix and Mesa made more than 8,500 immigration arrests during routine policing operations by following well-formulated city policies, state and federal laws, and without legislative meddling.

And Arpaio? According to the sheriff’s office, since April 2006, deputies have arrested a little more than 3,000 illegal immigrants...

So are we to applaud the Phoenix PD and the Mesa PD instead for their high numbers of arrests of immigrants? Not much of a surprise coming from a retired cop. Most Arpaio opposition actually applauds the PPD and MPD for not arresting a bunch of immigrants, so why the disparity?

I would say that the myth of the infallibility of law and order is not questioned, for the most part, for to do so would make you vulnerable to attacks by the other side, accusing you of wanting chaos, or whatever else they associate with opposing arrests of so-called criminals. Too many immigrants' advocates are not willing to be outspoken about the racist nature of "criminal justice" and law enforcement, the border, and immigration law in general. The result, therefore, is that law enforcement that can appear reasonable alongside arpaio's media circuses are not to be questioned, but instead even applauded, even if their actual effect is worse than how arpaio's efforts appear.

Sure, arpaio is feeding off of, but more importantly, feeding the anti-immigrant hysteria, which the other police departments do not seem to seek to do. His actions are highly politically-motivated and self-interested, rather than being the run of the mill everyday activities of police officials. But since we think it is wrong for him to go out and arrest undocumented immigrants, why is it okay that other police departments are doing the same thing (only "better")?

I am all to aware that a lot of immigrants rights advocates are not, in fact willing to outright oppose these arrests (i've commented on it a number of times). Instead it is made about the racial profiling: the sweeps might catch legal immigrants or citizens in its net (see this blog post). Or it is made about not going after "real criminals", nor serving warrants, despite the fact that most of us would acknowledge that the "criminal justice" system is inherently racist. The federal government is called on to save us from arpaio. I believe that if they do anything, it will only fit within its plans to focus on "criminal aliens" and streamlining its law enforcement abilities by introducing a program called "secure communities" (see this blog post and this older one).

The mindset that doesn't question these issues will only allow injustices to continue. Since most undocumented immigrants are too vulnerable to speak out, those of us who fight on their behalf must concern ourselves most with what's best for them. A friend of mine has said something to the effect of "they've spoken with their feet," in that they have made it clear what they think of the border and immigration laws. Those things are illegitimate and unjust, and should be treated as such.

I am concerned that when federal immigration reform comes up again, the compromise between liberal and conservative opinions will go unquestioned. Likely to benefit business but not people, and to appease a few, immigration reform will not involve solutions to the problems that bring people here in the first place, nor will it address the problems they face here.

There need to be strong voices that oppose anything less than true freedom- because how else are we going to get it?

See also: No Borders or Prison Walls: Beyond Immigrants' Rights to Ending Criminalization of All People of Color,
Release them all! Stop jailing migrants!,
Cop vs. Cop: Sheriff and Mesa Chief spar over sweeps
and The Immigrants Rights/Police Brutality Disconnect

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