Documented Discrimination in Arpaio’s Arizona

Self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio has made the news again for his treatment of undocumented immigrants in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. On December 15, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report that details unlawful and inhumane abuses carried out by Arpaio and his underlings against “illegals” between 2008 and the present. It details violations in community policing and in the County detention facilities. Below are some excerpts:

• Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.

• Our investigation uncovered a number of instances in which immigration-related crime suppression activities were initiated in the community after MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office] received complaints that described no criminal activity, put rather referred, for instance, to individuals with “dark skin” congregating in one area, or individuals speaking Spanish at a local business.

• Individual accounts regarding MCSO deputies stopping Latinos on the basis of their appearance corroborate the use of discriminatory policing practices.

• MCSO detention officers discriminatorily punish Latino LEP [Limited English Proficient] inmates who fail to understand commands given in English by, for example, locking down their pods (which increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence), or imposing disciplinary segregation (solitary confinement).

• MCSO detention officers refuse to accept forms completed by Latino LEP inmates in Spanish. Such forms include tank orders, which enable inmates to request basic daily services, and grievance forms, which enable inmates to identify and address alleged mistreatment. Even in instances when Spanish language requests are accepted, Latino LEP inmates face delays in services for not submitting requests and grievance forms in English.

Arpaio is popular among (mostly white) voters not only in Arizona but also in the rest of the nation, to such extent that several GOP presidential candidates sought his endorsement, which he eventually gave to Rick Perry.

At first blush, it is hard to believe that these injustices were perpetrated so unabashedly, but when one remembers how “illegals” are so very negatively viewed in the dominant White Racial Frame, it makes perfect sense.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    This open treatment and further being framed as heroic really shows how far U.S. society has not come. It seems as though this nation needs to have a group on hand at all times it can always define as less human, or not worthy of human rights–a group of folks it can disenfranchise, exploit to obscene degrees in terms of employment to levels that would shut down the same businesses if the treatment, etc., were pushed upon people defined by law as “legal”. Then on top of it, the folks that are most exploited are further criminalized and demonized–from slavery to Jim Crow to whatever it is today. And the government has always found a way to rationalize it enough to make the masses tolerant and even supportive, to varying degrees of the injustices–from making slavery legal and moral to well, these people come in here “illegally.” There’s always a group that dominant society can justify as being less deserving and ultimately “less human” than the mainstream. By “less human”, it seems there’s always got to be a group that can be legally defined as “less legal” so then by definition, they are and can be treated as so. The Civil Rights made great strides to at least ensure minimum wages and some level of labor rights and protections for all citizens…at least in theory and on the books…, so, where to go from there–oh, “the illegals”, people that can be legally exploited by legal definition. With having a black president, this serves to help fuel the illusion that the U.S. is in a post-racial society too in that all U.S. citizens who work, etc., are entitled to the full citizenship rights and protections this nation offers–we are past slavery and Jim Crow, and now have a black president. And people who are here “illegally”? well now…we “legal” citizens can live with a clear conscious because “we” are “legal” and “they” are “illegal” and what happens to “them” is not of “our” concern, etc.

    And the amount of money the government makes on the profiling–many pay their profiled tickets for minor infractions (driving 27 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone, etc., burnt out tail light or suggested that blinkers weren’t used, etc.) right after issued, over and over and over.

    I was thinking about how this exploitation has only changed form over the last several centuries rather than improved. It’s always got to have groups to exploit by legal definition and groups to blame/target for the social problems, which all serves to ultimately preserve and maintain white privilege for white society….

    What’s criminal is society defining any human beings in the U.S., regardless of how they got here or why they are here, as “illegal” and treating them as such…. And worse, forgetting that the U.S. is a land of immigrants all that goes with that history….

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