Stop Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling | Sojourners

Stop Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling

It was very humiliating to be handcuffed in front of my family's business, in front of customers and neighbors. It's not a crime to be Latino or listen to a Spanish-language radio station but you wouldn't know that by the way Sheriff Joe and his posse treat people

- Manuel Nieto, Jr., a U.S. citizen, who was unlawfully detained by officers of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Manuel Nieto is just one of the many victims of the inhumane tactics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who presides over Arizona's Maricopa County (the 4th largest in the country) and proclaims himself "America's Toughest Sheriff." Sheriff Joe's most recent publicity stunt involved parading 200 immigrant detainees to a new Tent City outdoor detention center. Shackled to each other and dressed in old-fashioned prison stripes, armed deputies marched the detainees past news cameras summoned for the event.

Last April, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon requested that then U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey launch a Justice Department investigation into "discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches, and arrests" of Latinos by Sheriff Arpaio. Mayor Gordon also stated that these tactics are putting Phoenix "residents' well-being, and the well-being of law enforcement officers, at risk." Last week, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers and other prominent members of Congress called for a federal investigation as well.

According to The Arizona Republic, Sheriff Arpaio's other made-for-TV stunts include immigration sweeps cheered on by gun-toting motorcycle and anti-immigrant "Minuteman" groups that target anyone "guilty of looking Latino." Sherriff Arpaio has even made the outrageous statement: "I wish that the Phoenix Police Department would arrest everybody, even if they're not sure [of that person's legal status]."

Not only are Sheriff Joe's practices of racial profiling discriminatory and unjust, they are downright ineffective. His department is setting a disturbing national trend in which immigration enforcement is focused on "the easiest targets, not the most dangerous fugitives." As a result, 40,000 felony warrants lay outstanding on Sheriff Joe's desk, 911 response times have worsened, and his county is a less safe place. Regardless of your understanding of the greater immigration debate, this is simply bad law-enforcement.

The actions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio illustrate the dangerous consequences of a broken immigration system. Since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot work effectively on its own, it occasionally gives immigration enforcement duties