Category Archives: enforcement

FBI Investigation: The beginning of the end for Sheriff Joe?


There has been a video circulating the web in the past week that features the story of an FBI investigation that is gathering momentum against our friend Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona.

We’ve tracked the long list of allegations leveled at Sheriff Joe; racial profiling, civil rights violations, a proven disregard for Federal law. But now, Arpaio is being investigated for yet another wrongdoing. From ThinkProgress:

This weekend, news reports revealed that the FBI is investigating whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been “using his position to settle political vendettas” against those who have been critical of his controversial tactics, namely his bullish pursuit of undocumented immigrants.

It seems as though Arpaio has decided the same scare tactics and bullying that he uses against undocumented immigrants, could also work against any of his critics or enemies: including those investigating Arpaio’s many alleged abuses.

Check out the video here:

Its worth nothing that Sheriff Arpaio refused to be interviewed on camera for this piece, a remarkable change in attitude from a man who was once gunning (pun intended) for his own reality show and who executes his own press conferences and legal maneuvers with all the pageantry of an actors on stage.

Earlier this week, Nezua at the Unapologetic Mexican summarized it quite nicely:

Watch this video above, and marvel at how the rogue cop can scoff off two major concurrent investigations by both the USDOJ and the FBI! Methinks hethinks he is his own lil country. And maybe he is. For now. Then again, I bet there was a day the T-Rex thought he’d walk the planet forever.

This man thinks he is invincible and that’s not only what makes him terrifying, its also what will eventually bring him down.

Why the Era of “Enforcement Only” Has Failed

ICE raid

The time has long passed, since our country lost it’s way in the struggle to figure out how to effectively deal with our broken and outdated immigration system. There are multitudes upon multitudes of missteps that I could point to along the way on our tragic misadventure. However, if I had to point to one specific decision that continues to confound this issue on a daily basis through to this day, it would have to be President Bush’s decision to “appease” the Restrictionists, in the wake of his second loss to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed in 2007.

Bush never was one for subtlety. He made an assumption that Restrictionists would eventually go along with the concept of CIR, if they saw that America was taking our existing immigration enforcement laws seriously. Therefore, he set us on a course of “enforcement only,” in an effort to prove that he could be tough on undocumented immigrants.

In the abstract, one could theoretically see the simple logic of his simple plan. By ramping up the enforcement side of the equation, he assumed that he could cozy up to his conservative base, while at the same time, cause just enough economic havoc in the marketplace for people to start calling for reform. His plan misread the tea leaves on many levels.

First of all, his economic policies imploded so severely, that we are now experiencing such massive unemployment, as to obscure any signs that the enforcement only approach has hurt our domestic economy (it has, actually). But because of the upheaval that his fiscal policies have wrought upon us, the undocumented labor issues, such as the recent firings of 1,800 undocumented employees at American Apparel, have barely been noticed on a national scale.

Similarly, in the absence of the passage of a CIR bill, his enforcement policies have served to tear apart families and crush the dreams and aspirations of thousands, if not millions of aspiring Americans, and citizens alike. The vacuum of reform has lead to the continuing alienation of millions of people, and has fostered or nurtured an atmosphere of racial tension and a climate of scape-goating.

Back in October of 2007, actually two years ago this week, I wrote an article that warned of the problems that the environment of “Enforcement Only” would engender upon us. The article, “The “Enforcement Only” Approach: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It,” spoke to the situation that we now find ourselves in.

In the article, I mention…..the Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff’s dire yet understated warning that “there will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this”. Of course, he probably didn’t realize just how right he was. I warned in the article that

“the myopically short sighted anti-immigration reformers simply don’t have a clue as to how the economy works in the real world, and furthermore, exposes the dangers that the enforcement only approach posses to not only our economy here at home, but to the economic stability of our entire region of the World.”

However, it is actually the issue of social injustice that moves me to write today. The time to put the enforcement only environment on hold has never been more important than it is right now. We need to completely re-think what we are doing, until such time as we can put together a CIR package that makes sense, and that is fair and just, and allows for enforcement that targets only the right people, for only the right reasons.

Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times had two articles last week that addressed our current and continuing path down the wrong road on this issue, and the policies that are striking fear into our nation’s neighborhoods. She wrote that,

Despite continuing criticism about the program, authorities announced Friday that 67 local and state law enforcement agencies across the country would continue enforcing immigration law under special agreements with the federal government….Since 287(g) began, more than 1,000 local officers have been trained to enforce immigration law. More than 130,000 illegal immigrants have been identified under it, according to officials. In 2009, roughly 24,000 illegal immigrants identified have been deported.

She also wrote about how these programs are truly on the wrong track:

Yolanda Diaz, who was arrested on a charge of simple assault, said the arrest has dashed her plans of going to college in the United States. Her sister, Diana, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, said she just wants to graduate from her high school. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Other people have done much worse things than this.” Marty Rosenbluth with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the government’s 287(g) program wasn’t designed to pick up illegal immigrants like the Diaz sisters. “I appreciate that they are saying they are prioritizing dangerous criminal aliens,” he said. “That is not what we are seeing.” Another one of his clients, Luis Cruz Millan, 30, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was ordered to report to an immigration officer after being arrested last month for allegedly listening to music too loudly in a car outside the Raleigh house where he was living.

Professor Kevin Johnson, Dean of the University of California Davis Law School, wrote passionately about how this climate of fear and hate has escalated our worst societal demons:

Sadly, it continues to be open season on Latinos — especially Latino immigrants — in the United States. The “sport” of “beaner hopping” is even defined in the Urban Dictionary.  What the heck is going on?  The latest news on this subject to report is a hate crime in Brooklyn, with the poor Mexican victim who was beaten senseless (and now unable to work and support his family) afraid to report the crime to police because of his and his wife’s immigration status. Will the federal government ever act?  How many senseless deaths of Latinos must occur before the Obama Administration condemns what is happening?  The spike in hate crimes against Latinos has long been in the news, as the debate over immigration reform, state and local anti-immigrant agitation, and Lou Dobbs and others have fomented hate..  Where is the U.S. Department of Justice, especially the Civil Rights Division? During the Presidential campaign, we were told by Senator Obama himself that “help was on the way.”  Many of us hoped and believed.  We have been patiently waiting on immigration reform, responses to hate on the streets, etc.  The wait has to end.  What has to be done to trigger a federal response to the daily injustices affecting Latinos in the United States?  Is there anyone out there?

Last week, I attended a meeting of community leaders in Los Angeles, and the issues of 287g agreements and our “enforcement only” policies are impacting communities in ways that surely our leaders never intended. This is a huge issue in the inner cities around the country.

Many misguided people have wrongly assumed that just because our local police have the capacity to arrest people, and jails in which to incarcerate them, that they would naturally be the right people to enforce immigration laws. They couldn’t be more wrong. The whole concept of police departments, is inherent in the motto of the LAPD: To Protect and Serve. How can our police people protect and serve our neighborhoods, when a large percentage of the population fears them, and won’t go to them for protection, because they rightly fear that they would end up being deported for their trouble?

Again, I want to make a plea to our nation, and particularly to our Government, that it is time to assume a full mantle of responsibility and sanity during this debate, and to re-examine our policies and tactics. If we have been trying to show that we can be tough on enforcement, I think that we have made that point, and we don’t need to continue to beat that dead horse. Clearly, at some point in our near future, we will come together in a dialogue aimed at restoring order to this atmosphere of chaos. Until that time, which should be within the next few months, let us put aside the tactics of fear and, what could be labeled an environment of institutionalized terror to our undocumented population of millions. The time for a rational federal – and federal only – policy is now. The time for fear and hate has long since passed.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Can we shut this guy down yet?

Though I caught wind of this story last week, I just sat down to do some research this morning and all I can say is “Are you KIDDING me?!?!”. Last week Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a name for himself by hunting down the “illegals” of Maricopa County, Arizona, admitted that clothing, conduct and speech are the characteristics that help him determine the immigration status of potential targets. He may as well have said “Well, I racially profile people. That’s how I know”. Incredible. Check out the clip below:

Arpaio is facing ever-increasing scrutiny over his immigration enforcement practices and is currently under a Department of Justice investigation for the countless allegations of racial profiling leveled at his agency. Apparently, Arpaio’s biggest defense was the Federal law he mentioned in the video above. The irony is, the Federal law that Arpaio cites as giving him the power to use these characteristics in his enforcement practices isn’t a law at all. In fact, its a legal analysis that was published by none other than FAIR, the anti-immigrant organization designated a hate group by the SPLC.

However, Matt Bunk of the Arizona Capitol Times points out that no such language exists in any federal immigration law and that the document that Arpaio continuously referenced and passed out at a press conference is actually a legal analysis published by a designated hate group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

When questioned about this, Arpaio admitted that it “might not be a law” but that there was “definitely a law out there” that gave him the power to do this. Basically, Arpaio is admitting that he is operating OUTSIDE of the law and has pledged that he will continue to do so, regardless of how far the administration goes in reigning in his powers.

In fact, even though the government has stripped Arpaio’s authority to conduct immigration raids in Maricopa County, he has promised that today he will be conducting one of his famous sweeps. No word yet on if that’s happened, but it’s clear that this man’s power needs to be taken away. Senator Jose M. Serrano had a letter to the editor published in today’s New York Times, where he gets to the heart of the issue:

…Extremists like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, are just part of the problem; federal policies that empower these men represent the underlying threat to immigrant communities.

The system is broken. And the longer it waits to be fixed, the more dangerous this threat will become.

[via Andrea Nill at Think Progress]

ICE ignores the facts, deports US-born citizen

In April, the story of Mark Lyttle broke. Mark is a US-born citizen, with a long history of mental illness – most specifically Mark suffers from bi-polar disorder. In late 2008, Mark was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers and questioned about his citizenship. Because of Mark’s brown skin, agents assumed he was Mexican. Do you know where I’m going with this?

In December of 2008, Mark was loaded onto a plane and deported to Mexico. Thus began his four month journey from Mexico to Hondura (where he was imprisoned) to Guatemala, where he finally found the US Embassy and was granted a passport to come home.

The most shocking aspect of Mark’s case is this: ICE had evidence of his US citizenship. Agents were able to find Mark’s Social Security number, the names of his parents, a record check indicating he was US born and his own testimony that he was a native of Rowan County, North Carolina.

So what happened? Mark was the victim of the broken enforcement and judicial systems currently in place under Federal immigration policy. ICE agents focused on brown skin as the main indicator of documentation did not do their jobs, but rather swept evidence under the rug so as not to exert more effort than need be while deporting yet another “illegal” – for some, this is synonymous with “Mexican”. Need more evidence? Yesterday an AP story ran, reporting that “anti-Mexican discrimination in the US” was growing.

Jacqueline Stevens, a professor at the University of California, has followed Mark’s case closely and cites that it sets an extremely dangerous enforcement precedent. In short, Mark’s case is not singular, but rather the part of a much bigger pattern of neglect, racial profiling and fast-track justice that lead to the erosion of basic rights for everyone, not just immigrants.

Even more shocking are the several thousand of US citizens each year who are not only detained, but also deported. This occurs either because of ICE bullying, a fear of indefinite detention, or because the US government gave their US citizen parents, mostly of Mexican ancestry, incorrect information about their legal status and issued them green cards instead of telling them they were US citizens at birth.

When I told Mark’s attorney, Neil Rambana, that ICE had Mark’s FBI record indicating he was a US citizen, Rambana was furious, “That is the most dangerous precedent I have ever heard. Someone swept a whole heap of dust under a carpet because they didn’t want to do their job. These things are easily identifiable by those who have superior resources, but they failed to exercise an iota of effort.”

As the current administration continues failed enforcement policies and is slow to begin the fight for immigration reform, people should remember cases like Mark’s. People should be outraged.

Immigrant Rights and Community Groups call for an end to the 287g program

A large and diverse group of immigrant rights, civil rights and community organizations have signed onto a letter to President Obama, calling for an end to the so-called 287(g) agreement program. As many of our readers know, the 287(g) program allows local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. The program has an extensive record of civil and human rights violations and is the same program that allows Sheriff Joe Arpaio to continue his reign of terror in Maricopa County, Arizona.

The National Immigration Law Center, in partnership with NDLON and the Detention Watch Network, have gathered more than 521 organizational sign-ons to the letter. Here is an excerpt:

We applaud your recent remarks acknowledging, that “there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” However, DHS’s continued use of 287(g) program exacerbates exactly this type of racial profiling. In light of well-documented evidence that local law enforcement agencies are using 287(g) powers to justify and intensify racial profiling, Secretary Napolitano’s July 10, 2009 announcement that DHS has expanded the 287(g) program to include 11 new jurisdictions is deeply alarming.

This quote gets to the heart of the issue with these agreements. We strongly hope that the administration heeds this call to terminate this destructive program. For a full list of organizations signed on, keep reading. And for the full text of the letter, click here.

The letter will be delivered this Thursday, August 27th alongside a series of local actions from groups around the country.

Continue reading

Napolitano and the enforcement problem

I feel like starting this post with a frustrated sigh, but since you guys can’t actually hear me, I’m going to start by letting you know that I just sighed in frustration.

Today, the New York times is running a story on Janet Napolitano’s continued focus on immigration enforcement. Her speech, at a conference on border security in El Paso, TX, was on the heels of Obama’s announcement that immigration reform will have to wait until 2010. [insert another frustrated sigh here] Napolitano defended the administration’s policies as “different” than those of the Bush administration:

But Ms. Napolitano argued that the Obama administration had changed Mr. Bush’s programs in critical ways, such as putting an emphasis on deporting criminals and holding more employers responsible for hiring illegal workers.

“Make no mistake, our overall approach is very, very different. It is more strategic, more cooperative, more multilateral and, in the long run, more effective.”

I really wanted to believe that this could be true and that this administration understood what was at stake in this debate, but patience is really wearing thin. It is PAST time that this administration delivered on their promise of fixing our broken system. More enforcement, I don’t care how much the strategy has shifted, is not contributing to a solution to the many, many issues plaguing our immigrant population.

“How many more millions if not billions of dollars are we going to put into the border without fixing the immigration system?” asked Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said of Ms. Napolitano, “She’s increasing enforcement of laws that President Obama and she have both said are broken, and the result is going to be a lot of human misery.”

I’ve been trying to defend the administration, in hopes that each somewhat disappointing move has been political posturing that is setting up for the big CIR push to come. But, there is only so many times they can dangle the carrot, just out of our reach, and promise that we will get it eventually, before people start to lose trust. I am offically pissed off – and I know I’m not the only one.

Continuing (and Expanding) 287g: Why we can’t afford more of the same


Last week, it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security was signing 11 new local law enforcement agencies onto the program known as 287(g). The program grants local law enforcement agents the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. The destructive program cultivates a culture of fear among immigrants and communities of color, pours resources into the rounding up of immigrants instead of the protection of public safety and has been condemned by everyone from independent think-thanks to the Police Foundation.

So why is DHS continuing this failed program? While the announcement was made alongside the pledge of a long overdue “review” of the program, it is a mistake to expand any failed enforcement program in the absence of satisfactory comprehensive immigration legislation.

Let me be clear, this is the program that gives Sheriff Joe “I don’t have to answer to the DOJ” Arpaio the authority to round up Latinos like cattle and ignore his commitment to the actual protection of the public. This is the program under which Juana Villegas de la Paz was shackled to her hospital bed while giving birth to her child. This is the program that was found to “create a climate of racial profiling and insecurity” by a leading national university.

I am disappointed that the announcement of a review of this program was accompanied by an ill-advised expansion. This, more than anything, points to the need for a FULL OVERHAUL of immigration policy. We cannot continue failed programs in the absence of comprehensive reform.

As an editorial in the NY Times today stated:

Enforcement-only schemes were the rage back when anti-immigrant demagogues were in full roar and Bush officials wanted to show how tough they were. They bring us no closer to an immigration system that works. Mr. Obama promised fresh ideas on immigration reform. So far we don’t see them.