National Immigration Forum

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Sheriff Arpaio Takes Us Down the Road to Perdition

February 05, 2009 - Posted by Shuya Ohno

Today, when President Obama was signing into law a bill that lifted a five-year ban on immigrant children getting healthcare, Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona forced around two hundred immigrant detainees at gunpoint to march in chains. The forced march snaked through public streets, with each person, shackled, carrying his own bedding. The march ended at “Tent City,” the Sheriff’s prison facility of tents, surrounded by electric fences.

Such forced marches can only bring to mind the worst images from the pages of our history books. We are reminded how common sense and human decency is lost to despots, drunk with unchecked power. Forced marches have been used repeatedly, not only to punish, but also to dehumanize.

Arpaio has been at this for a while, as outlined here in a factsheet from America’s Voice. In his press release, Arpaio cites cost-cutting for this spectacle of depravity, but the actual costs of Arpaio’s actions are mounting ever higher, as evidenced here in a factsheet from the Immigration Policy Center.

Let’s be clear about this. This local Sheriff is forcing individuals who have not been convicted of any crime to march, shackled, through public streets. The Geneva Convention forbids such actions for prisoners of war, stating in Article 27 that prisoners must be protected from “insults and public curiosity.” This language was specifically designed to prevent governments from forcing prisoners to march through public streets. Clearly, Sheriff Arpaio has less regard for prisoners presumed innocent, than all civilized countries have for enemy combatants.

Today, we are all being forced to participate in this madness, not as innocents forced to march, but as spectators forced to witness this demonstration of human degradation.

How could this be happening in America? Look no further than the failed policy called 287g. This is what can happen when local cops and sheriffs are deputized by ICE to become federal immigration law enforcers without supervision, zealots run amock. The New York Times reports today that ICE’s own enforcement policies have been misleading Congress:


“The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.

And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.

But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either…”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio forced about two hundred individuals through public streets today, shackled together, wearing prison garb with large red letters across the chest reading, “UNSENTENCED.” These men have not been tried or convicted. This is a travesty, a mockery of the American system of justice.

What can we do today? What can we do right now? We can talk to our families, our friends, and we can all contact Congress. Let’s let our Representative know how we feel.

Join others across the country and let’s all put a stop to this madness.

Please sign this petition now.


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