Last week I posted on Sherriff Joe Arpaio and his anti-immigrant crusade in Arizona’s Maricopa County. It seems as though Sherrif Joe struck again last week – this time he and his “posse” raided Mesa, Arizona’s City Hall, the Public Library and a number of private homes.
The raid, which was conducted SWAT style with at least 60 armed agents, highlights the increasing tension between Sherriff Joe’s tactic and Arizona officials.
Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa criticized Sheriff Arpaio for sending the SWAT team into his city without properly advising the Mesa police, who learned about raid when an officer discovered sheriff’s deputies assembling in a residential park about 12:30 a.m.
“Law enforcement should never put the public at risk,” Mr. Smith said.
In an editorial in the New York Times, the raid was called “A War on Janitors” (the targets were employees of a cleaning company), harshly criticizing Arpaio’s tactics.
In most other parts of the country this would be seen as a stunning misuse of firepower, a waste of resources and a bizarre intrusion by one government agency onto another’s turf. Neither the mayor nor Mesa’s Police Department had been warned about the raids. And the city had already been investigating the company’s hiring.
But this happened in Maricopa County, where for months Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies have been staging high-profile sweeps, stopping drivers and pedestrians and demanding their papers. The crackdowns have terrorized and infuriated Latino residents of Phoenix, America’s fifth-largest city, where citizens say they have been stopped and harassed for the crime of being brown-skinned.
The piece also called for the next president to address the issue of immigration – something that has been clearly lacking from both camps so far.
The new president will not only have to stand up for something better; he will have to stand against the repulsive scapegoating that hard-liners like Sheriff Arpaio, who is up for re-election next month, have waged for short-term political gain.
He will, in short, have to reassure immigrants, Latinos especially, that America’s welcome is secure.