Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Feds to Sue Arpaio, but Carry Out Largest National Round-up Yet

It may seem like great news that the federal Justice Department will finally be suing sheriff joe.  According to "Government plans to sue Arizona sheriff for targeting Latinos",
The administration's Justice Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office have been in settlement talks for months over allegations that officers regularly made unlawful stops and arrests of Latinos, used excessive force against them and failed to adequately protect the Hispanic community.
Those negotiations have broken down because of a fight over the Justice Department's demand that an independent monitor be appointed by a federal court to oversee compliance with the settlement...
But can the federal government really take the moral high ground when you contrast the latest round-up, which happens to be the largest yet, with sheriff joe's sweeps?  In Colorlines' "ICE Arrest 3k Immigrants in 6 Days, Largest Roundup Ever", the raids are described:
On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced 3,168 undocumented immigrants were detained over the course of six-days in a national operation the agency dubbed “Cross Check.” According to ICE, the six-day operation was the largest such effort in the agency’s history.
I find it interesting that I hardly saw any mention in my social media networks about this largest round-up ever.  Arizonans in particular seem to think that the federal government could and would save us from horrible politicians like Arpaio.  The Federal government prefers to think of their work as colorblind, that what sets them apart from Arpaio is that he is actively discriminating which "erodes the public trust," according to Napolitano.  I snarkily commented in last December's post, "Federal Goverment Prefers Their Way Better Than Arpaio's", "because blatant maliciousness and hypocrisy erode the public trust, the status quo doesn't."

The following points really contextualize the federal government's approach:
“The raids are in line with the administration’s record on immigration to date: while claiming to target serious offenders the majority of those detained were in fact people with misdemeanor convictions and people who’ve returned to the United States after having been deported previously. In the case of the later group, many have returned to the United States to be with their families,” [’s investigative reporter Seth Freed] Wessler went on to point out.

In it’s press release, ICE again claims that the agency “is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities.” And the Washington Post reported the news with an inevitable highlights reel, naming a Cameroonian drug distributer with a gun charge and Mexican murderer among the group. “But of course, the vast majority of those in the serious criminal list are not kin-pins and murderers. ICE officials continue to draw on racialized hysteria to naturalize what’s clearly a bald policy of mass deportation,” Wessler said.

Wessler also notes operation Cross Check is the third such national scale enforcement operation in the last year, which together have detained nearly 8,500 people. “These numbers amount to only a fraction of all deportations. Last year nearly 400,000 people were deported.”
Read that last paragraph again.  As I have pointed out in the past, the federal government does not create elaborate press circuses to feed their ego, accompanied by veiled racist rhetoric, quite the way Arpaio does.  But let's be honest here.  The federal government is doing the majority of the detaining and they're doing all of the deporting.  It has been over three years since I wrote, Federal Government will not be Maricopa County's Savior in response to the announcement that the House Judiciary Committee was pushing Eric Holder and Napolitano to investigate Arpaio.  I pointed out that "Much of the activism is focused around getting people from the federal government to pay attention, although others also call on the federal government to stop the raids. The primary voice of immigrants’ rights advocacy in anglo media is Stephen Lemons who recently said, 'The political reality of Cactus Country is this: Without intervention from the Obama administration, we are royally screwed.'"

In further commentary, I wrote,
We cannot expect a government that has been built on racism and continues to practice it in various ways (much higher rates of incarceration of people of color than whites, lack of indigenous rights, wars, just to name some examples) to be a force against white supremacy. The operator of immigration detention centers (or the ones who outsource private detention facilities), the performer of raids, is not the one whose going to save us from the similar actions of the Sheriff. He is doing their work for them. He's just doing it in an extra "look how demeaning i can be to these people" way. If the federal government does anything about it, it will only be to legitimize and continue its own actions and those of other jurisdictions.
The federal government is the reason why stepping across a man-made line or overstaying a visa are illegal in the first place.  They are they ones who have forced programs like Secure Communities onto city and state governments.  Arpaio just pushes the limits to see how far and blatant it can go.

It seems in some ways that Arizonans are still waiting and hoping for some federal intervention.   Considering the actions of the federal government, however, does this not seem rather ridiculous?  Not to mention that treating the lawsuit against Arpaio as a victory distracts from the major problems that continue to occur.

Edit:  See also: Operation Cross Check » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.