For those of you not in Arizona that wonder from all the articles about him why Sheriff Joe is still elected by almost landslide majorities, and why Republicans all over the state still beg him for his endorsement, here it is:
A subsequent examination of the sheriff's file showed that residents of Maricopa County wrote to him regarding the presence of Mexicans in greater Phoenix.
Citizens saw day laborers. They saw people with brown skin. They heard Spanish spoken.
And what the letters reveal is enormous anxiety about Hispanics:
- "I always see numerous Mexicans standing around in that area . . . These Mexicans swarmed around my car, and I was so scared and alarmed . . . I was never so devastated in my life regarding these circumstances . . . Although the Mexicans at this location may be within their legal right to be there . . . I merely bring this matter to your attention in order that all public agencies, FBI, etc., may be kept informed of these horrific circumstances."
- "I would love to see an immigrant sweep conducted in Surprise, specifically at the intersection of Grand and Greenway. The area contains dozens of day workers attempting to flag down motorists seven days a week."
- "The Mesa police chief drags his feet and stalls . . . the head of the Mesa police union is a Hispanic."
- "As a retiree in Sun City, formerly from Minnesota, I am a fan of yours and what you are doing to rid the area of illegal immigrants . . . when I was in McDonald's at Bell Road and Boswell (next to the Chase Bank) this noon, there was not an employee in sight, or within hearing, who spoke English as a first language — to my dismay. From the staff at the registers to the staff back in the kitchen area, all I heard was Spanish — except when they haltingly spoke to a customer. You might want to check this out."
And Sheriff Arpaio did check it out.
None of the Hispanics described in the letters had broken the law. It is not against the law to speak Spanish or work as a day laborer.
Arpaio nonetheless gave the correspondence to Deputy Chief Brian Sands. Federal Judge Snow determined that raids and roundups quickly followed. Hispanics were rousted because white people were uncomfortable.
Sheriff Joe once did a roundup in tony Fountain Hills, which I would be surprised if it had even 5% Hispanic population, and managed to drag in for various petty violations (e.g. cracked windshield) a group that was about 95% Hispanic. His favorite thing to do, when he isn't busting into homes with Hollywood celebrities, is to send his deputies into a business and have them handcuff everyone with brown skin and refuse to release them until they or their family members have arrived to prove they are in the US legally.
This whole article is a good roundup of yet another abusive side of Arpaio, his flagrant disregard for public records laws and the rules of evidence. In Maricopa County, "exculpatory evidence" and "shredded" have roughly the same meaning.