Things That Matter

Arizona’s Notorious Anti-Immigrant Sheriff Is Facing Criminal Contempt Charges

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is potentially facing up to six months in prison for misdemeanor criminal contempt charges. His crime? Keeping America safe… by violating the civil rights of innocent citizens and then refusing to stop when a court ordered him to. Arpaio’s methods of keeping the peace involve everything from humiliation tactics – like making prisoners wear pink underwear and socks – all the way to straight up spit-in-the-face-of-the-constitution level racial profiling. After being ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow in 2011 to stop policing policies that involved rights violations, like pulling people over for being brown, Joe Arpaio declared, “I’m not stopping anything.”

Arpaio’s refusal to stop is now costing Arizona’s tax payers millions of dollars, while Arpaio continues to rake in in donations from donors.

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CREDIT: REAL SHERIFF JOE / YOUTUBE

Joe Arpaio released a statement concerning the timing of the criminal case hearing, only a month before Maricopa elections, saying:

“First and foremost, it is clear that the corrupt Obama Justice Department is trying to influence my re-election as Sheriff of Maricopa County. It is no coincidence that this announcement comes 28 days before the election and the day before early voting starts. It is a blatant abuse of power and the people of Maricopa County should be as outraged as I am.”

If anyone knows a thing about abusing their power to unfairly target people, it’s gotta be Joe Arpaio. And probably the only people who understand his kind of outrage are those who were victimized by his years of racial profiling. If found guilty, Joe could be barred from running for sheriff and end up serving jail time, where he may end up with a pair of pink socks of his own.

READ: A Judge Told Him To Stop Racially Profiling Latinos. He Refused. Now He Might Go To Jail

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Sheriff Joe Has Lost His Race To Get Back His Old Job But How Was He Able To Run At All?

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Sheriff Joe Has Lost His Race To Get Back His Old Job But How Was He Able To Run At All?

Ross D Franklin / Getty Images

America’s ‘toughest sheriff’ and blatantly racist law enforcement officials has been defeated in race for sheriff. But what’s shocking is just how close the race was for a man who was arrested and convicted of racially profiling Latinos only to then be pardoned by Trump.

And it appeared that Arpaio had zero remorse for his controversial and damaging policies. In the run up to the election, he vowed to continue his controversial policing tactics with policies that included housing county jail inmates in tents and regular immigration sweeps. 

Running to get back his old job, Joe Arpaio has lost his primary bid for Maricopa County Sheriff.

America’s self-confessed “toughest sheriff”, Joe Arpaio, was narrowly defeated in his bid to win back the sheriff’s post in metro Phoenix that he held for 24 years before being voted out in 2016 amid voter frustrations over his taxpayer-funded legal bills, blatant racism, his penchant for self-promotion and a defiant streak that led to his now-pardoned criminal conviction.

In the latest count from Tuesday’s primary, announced on Friday, Arpaio lost the primary to his long time aide, Jerry Sheridan. Mr. Sheridan had secured about 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race, compared to Mr. Arpaio’s 36 percent — a difference of 6,280 votes out of more than 420,000 cast, with only 2,385 ballots remaining to be counted.

For Mr. Arpaio, 88, the loss on Tuesday was his third electoral defeat in four years. After losing his 2016 re-election bid, he suffered a resounding loss in a three-way Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Mr. Arpaio said in an interview on Friday that this year’s race was his last run for public office, adding that his age and record as sheriff were working against him.

“They were tired of me and tired of my office,” he said.

So who is the Republican who won the primary?

Voters instead backed Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio’s former chief deputy, who promised to revive many of the sheriff’s racist and anti-immigrant policies but without the showmanship.

Mr. Sheridan was found guilty of civil contempt of court and a judge referred him for criminal contempt charges, though prosecutors later said the statute of limitations prevented them from bringing charges. A related complaint with the state board that certifies police officers languished until Mr. Sheridan’s certification expired this year.

In November’s general election, Sheridan will face current Sheriff Paul Penzone, the Democrat who beat Arpaio four years ago. And most political observers say Penzone is the favorite in the general election.

His campaign put out a statement after Arpaio’s defeat.

“With the primary race for Maricopa County Sheriff officially concluding tonight, Arizona Democrats reaffirm our commitment to protecting the Latino community from the likes of Joe Arpaio’s former number two, Jerry Sheridan, who was found in contempt of court and will double down on Arpaio’s disturbing legacy that embarrassed our state and cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Matt Grodsky, spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party. 

“Arizona’s largest county is better off under the leadership of Sheriff Penzone, a leader with a legacy of accountability, committed to building community trust,” he added. “We know voters will stick with him this November.”

Arpaio had long harassed Latinos and made life a living hell in Arizona for migrant communities.

Credit: Ross D Franklin / Getty Images

Arpaio rose to national prominence thanks to his blatantly racist, anti-immigrant, and illegal policies as ‘America’s toughest sheriff.’ During his tenure, he housed inmates in tents, forced them to wear pink underwear and brought back chain gangs. His department conducted sweeps of undocumented immigrants in Hispanic communities and detained Spanish-speakers under suspicion of being in the country irregularly. 

Then in 2011, Arpaio was convicted of deliberately violating an injunction halting his practice of detaining migrants who are not suspected of having committed a state crime. Only federal officers have jurisdiction over immigration. He faced six months in jail but was benefited by President Donald Trump’s first presidential pardon.

This year’s primary by Arpaio exploited racial tensions and pushed a tough-on-crime message amid a nationwide movement to stop police abuses against people of color. His rebuke from Republican voters could be an ominous sign for the president, who is trailing Biden in the polls in Arizona.

Arpaio is a close ally of Trump’s and was one of his first supporters in 2015, and his fall from grace mirrors the struggle that the president faces among suburban Republican voters in Arizona, a traditionally conservative state that is seen as up for grabs in this year’s presidential election.

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Anti-Immigrant Legacy May Have United Arizona Latinxs

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Anti-Immigrant Legacy May Have United Arizona Latinxs

Ross Franklin / Getty

Joe Arpaio touted himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” largely because of his anti-immigrant policies. His strategy worked, Arpaio would become a nationally recognized figure as his xenophobia found him “investigating” President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and supporting Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2010, a set of the country’s most draconian immigration laws which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. 

Eventually, Arpaio would be charged with criminal contempt of court, following several federal civil rights lawsuits. Only to be pardoned by Trump. In 2016, Arpaio was unseated by Democrat Paul Penzone. 

Today journalist Fernanda Santos writes, in Politico, there is a new wave of Latinx activists who have emerged in response to Arpaio’s policies. And they’re running for elected office.

Arizona Latinxs are fed up with the anti-immigrant policies. Now they want a seat at the table. 

“This is about stepping into the electoral space and saying, ‘Hey, not only can we put pressure from the outside, but we can infiltrate these systems and do something radically different,’” Lane Santa Cruz told Politico. “It sounds very subversive, but it is not. This is the way through the front door.” 
Tucson City Councilwoman Santa Cruz is one of many newly elected Latinxs in Arizona. Her seat was previously held by Regina Romero, a daughter of Mexican immigrants, who was elected Tucson’s first Latina mayor on Tuesday. 
Many Latinx advocates and organizers were elected in the past 10 months, which could be signaling a new Latinx wave in Arizona that could fundamentally transform the state’s politics.
Raquel Terán, a civic organizer, was elected into the state House of Representatives, Betty Guardado a former housekeeper was elected to the Phoenix City Council and Carlos Garcia, an immigration advocate, was elected to the city council. 

Arizona has not been too kind to its Latinx residents.

History shows Latinxs have always been forced to be at odds with their white Arizona counterparts. 

“Latinos, however, have long struggled for equal access and equal rights in Arizona. Their resistance took shape in the labor unions that opposed legislation in 1914 threatening to ban non-English speakers from working in mines, and then a dual-wage system that paid Mexicans less for doing the same work as Anglos,” Santos writes. 

Joe Arpaio, who has been the subject to multiple federal civil lawsuits, was federally barred from doing “immigration round-ups,” was found to have unfairly targeted Latinxs, and who the U.S. Department of Justice said oversaw the most egregious pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, among numerous other crimes during his 1993-2017 stint as sheriff, appeared to be an extension of this Arizona history. 

Joe Arpaio’s insidious history with immigrants. 

Arpaio decided to take on illegal immigration in the early 2000s ushering him onto the national stage. 

“Arpaio’s deputies started arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants, after entering into a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. The sheriff’s office blew through its budget on immigration efforts while violent crimes, including sex crimes, went uninvestigated,” according to the Washington Post. 

In 2010, SB 1070 took effect, while most provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court, one which allowed police officers of anyone they believed might be undocumented remained in effect until 2016

In 2011, the Justice Department found that Arpaio’s sheriff’s office systematically profiled Latinxs. In 2013, a U.S. district judge determined the same thing and ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people on the basis of racial profiling. In 2017, he was charged with criminal contempt of court for continuing to detain people. Months later, President Trump pardoned him. 

Arizona Latinxs continue to mobilize and fight back.

Just as often Arizona Latinxs are undermined, they have mobilized against racist efforts. Successfully beating segregation in the schools three years before the Supreme Court decided on the matter, and organizing young Latinxs against discriminatory practices like an absence of bilingual classes and overcrowding.

Garcia was born in Cananea Mexico and was undocumented until he was 14. He founded and ran Puente Human Rights Movement, an immigrant’s rights group. But like many of the advocates who have just been elected, Garcia wants to push things further. Five of his family members have been deported since 2009. 

“I got left with no options. And that’s what has pushed someone like me to actually run for office,” he said.  

As the Arpaios of the world made life increasingly difficult for Arizona immigrants, they fought back with increasing resolve.

“What really woke us up as a community were the anti-immigrant laws here in Arizona, and it was Arpaio, and it was Jan Brewer, and it was those anti-immigrant policies that they were pushing—that’s what took us to the streets,” says Romero. “But we also realized that if we wanted to change the systems that have oppressed us, we had to do it from the inside. We had to change the faces of these policymakers in Arizona.”

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