Thursday, March 12, 2009

Justice Investigates Sheriff Who Enforces Law

CNSNews reported today that President Obama's Justice Department is investigating a law enforcement official for enforcing immigration law.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona following requests by congressional Democrats and allegations by liberal activists that the department has violated the civil rights of illegal aliens.

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Robert Scott (D-Va.) requested the investigation, and activists groups such as National Day Laborer Organizer Network and ACORN launched petition drives and rallies in support of the probe.

The investigation focuses on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and dozens of officers under his command who were trained through the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS), which partners federal and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws. (The Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division is known popularly as ICE.)

Justice officials sent a letter to Sheriff Arpaio, which included the following:

"The investigation will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals."

So... what really is the problem these "activists" and Congressmen have with Sheriff Arpaio? It's that he's been effective against illegal immigrants in his county.

In an August 2008 press release, Arpaio's office detailed those results.

"While the Sheriff’s illegal immigration and human smuggling operations conducted on the streets and roadways here have netted nearly 2,300 arrests, another very successful effort to locate illegal aliens has been quietly happening inside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails," the release said.

It continues: "Despite the growing criticism of the Sheriff’s illegal immigration fight by some valley politicians and activists, Sheriff Arpaio says 60 detention officers trained by ICE officials have conducted over 106,000 interviews and investigations of inmates booked into jail since April of 2007.

"In those 18 months, 16,000 inmates were determined to be illegal aliens. Either they have already been deported or will be deported after being tried and/or serving their sentences for crimes committed in the valley. The work being done be Arpaio’s detention staff is a likely contributor to the recent reduction in crime in the valley,” the press release added.

"That number of 16,000 represents a full one-third (1/3) of all inmates in the United States who have had holds placed on them after being identified by jail or prison officials as illegal aliens."

The press release goes on to say that 20 percent of inmates in the Maricopa County Jail are illegal aliens and that of those, 2,000 illegal aliens - 70 percent - were arrested for felony crimes.

It's a little tough to organize day laborers when the illegal alien day laborers have been deported or thrown in jail. How can they get funding in Maricopa County when there's no one left there to help?

Pro-illegal immigration activists don't like the enforcement of immigration law, and Sheriff Arpaio is the best-known enforcer of the law. They'll take him down if they possibly can, even if that means leaving all those felons on the streets in Arizona and the rest of our country. It's just too bad for the law-abiding citizens if the crime rates go back up as a result.

I'd slam President Obama for his lax policies on illegal immigration, but unfortunately John McCain probably wouldn't have been any better. He and GW Bush gave nothing more than lip-service to closing the border and only caved in to public outrage on the issue when they were forced to. Frankly, I'm surprised the ICE program of training local law enforcement officers for the task was even implemented. But since it's here and Arpaio's deputies have been trained, we need to let them do their jobs without Justice Department harrassment.


Branddobbe said...

This is being presented as an attack by the Obama administration and "liberal activists", but in reality the investigation is nearly ten years old. According to a report by the Goldwater Institute:

In 1999, a federal audit found that “unconstitutional conditions exist at the Jails with respect to (1) the use of excessive force against inmates and (2) deliberate indifference to inmates’ serious medical needs.” MCSO entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to change procedures and conditions, but the Justice Department apparently has not inspected MCSO jails. . . . In September 2008, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care revoked its accreditation of MCSO’s jails for failure to provide adequate health care to inmates. Accreditation is an important defense against lawsuits by inmates challenging prison conditions. Relatedly, U.S. District Court Judge Neal Wake who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush found in October 2008 that unlawful conditions continue to persist in county detention facilities.

The report also illustrates how ineffective Arpaio's sheriff's department really is. By putting so much of an emphasis on illegal immigration, the department is neglecting other crimes to the detriment of the community. Violent crime has increased in recent years, but the jurisdiction's arrest rate has plummeted and the number of outstanding, unserved warrants continues to break county records. His highly publicized "sweeps" for illegal immigrants have resulted in only about 200 arrests, which is laughable in comparison to the roughly 16,000 illegal immigrants discovered in the process of routine bookings for non-immigration-related crimes. And despite saying that he intended to go after human-smuggling kingpins, saying "“I don’t expect to concentrate on some guy in a truck with six illegals; I want to go after the smugglers who do this for money, the top people," his department has arrested no bosses or kingpins, only low-level smugglers—the guys in the trucks with six illegals.

He's wasting an incredible amount of money and manpower focusing (very ineffectively) on illegal immigration, and is all but ignoring non-immigration-related crime, but there is one thing he's exceeding at: prisoner abuse. The conditions of Maricopa County jails are so poor that Amnesty International issued a report condemning his office. Some of his prisoners are housed in tents which, in the summertime, have reached temperatures of 138 degrees. Prisoners are routinely denied medical care for no reason; as noted above, the atrocious conditions caused the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to revoke the accreditation of the department's jails. Some highlights:

* Prisoners in the so-called "Tent City" frequently use the easily removable tent stakes as weapons, and jail officials have taken no measures to prevent this. In 1996, Jeremy Flanders was beaten almost to death by fellow inmates and suffered serious brain damage. In a civil case following the matter, the judge noted that "the sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence" and held Arpaio partially liable for Flanders' injuries.
* In 1996, Scott Norberg died after being beaten, forced into a restraint chair, and tazed more than twenty times despite being completely subdued.
* A diabetic woman, Deborah Braillard, was denied insulin for two days. When her moaning in pain began to bother her cellmates, she was moved to an empty cell. She was eventually taken to a hospital, where she died.
* Charles Agster, a mentally handicapped man arrested for loitering, was tied so tightly to a restraint chair that he died within minutes.
* A paraplegic man named Richard Post complained to guards that his catheter was full. They initially ignored him, but eventually tied him into a restraint chair so tightly that his neck was broken; he is now a full quadriplegic.
* Brian Crenshaw, a blind inmate, was beaten by guards for refusing to show his ID in a lunch line. The beating led to ruptured intestines, a broken neck, broken toes, and severe internal bleeding. Arpaio claimed that these injuries were caused by a fall from Crenshaw's bunk bed.

Lawsuits related to abuse and jail conditions have cost the county $30 million dollars in legal fees alone, and this number is only going to rise. According to a Phoenix New Times article from 2007:

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, for example, collectively housed more than 61,000 inmates per day last year. From 2004 through November of this year, these same county jails had a combined 43 prison-conditions lawsuits filed against them in federal courts. In the very same three-year time frame, despite housing a mere 9,200 prisoners per day, Sheriff Arpaio was the target of a staggering 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts.

Put another way, Maricopa County receives fifty times the number of lawsuits as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined, despite housing less than only 15% as many prisoners.

Joe Arpaio is not a hero fighting for justice. He is a man with no respect for the law, human rights, or the Eighth Amendment. He's bad for Maricopa County and bad for society at large. The Justice Department should prosecute him to the full extent of the law.

Tsofah said...

I'm not really big on the green bread (moldy?) this sheriff has said he will serve prisoners.

HOWEVER, we must deter illegal immigration.

SkyePuppy said...

Branddobbe, my boy,

This is very interesting, and it wasn't mentioned at all by CNSNews.

I tend not to give a lot of credence to Amnesty International as a general rule, and that Overthrow Arpaio site has no "About Us" or any other way of verifying that it's not just some guy who hates Arpaio and isn't reliable (not that I have one, either, but at least I link to my sources).

The Goldwater Institute is the source you gave that I consider the most reliable, and it's pretty damning of the Sheriff and his practices.

What I find interesting in this context, though, is that the Justice Department's investigation cited in the CNSNews story has nothing to do with the deplorable practices listed in the Goldwater Institute report. Instead, Justice "will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals."

If providing access to services for the English-challenged is where Obama's Justice Department wants to focus, then they have their priorities all screwed up.

Thanks for the info!

ChuckL said...

I have an idea... let's lock up all the American law enforcement officers and turn the keys over to the illegal immigrants. Now there's an idea. Seems like that's what our fine liberal establishment wants to see happen.