New York Times (Editorial)
August 04, 2017
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for years a fearsome figure for Arizona’s Latinos, was convicted of criminal contempt this week for violating a court order to stop his dragnet harassment of immigrants for documentation.
The misdemeanor conviction, which could mean six months in jail, should be a warning against the kinds of abusive tactics used by Sheriff Arpaio in his self-appointed role as guardian and enforcer of federal immigration law — an effort the Justice Department called one of the worst examples of racial profiling it had ever seen. But so far the message appears to have fallen on deaf ears; unchastened, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appears to have little trouble finding local police departments willing to join President Trump’s aggressive national search for potential deportees.
This week in Texas, Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, praised President Trump for taking “handcuffs” off ICE agents as he welcomed 18 Texas county sheriffs into agreements under which local deputies will be trained to enforce federal immigration laws. “The days of turning our head the other way are over,” Mr. Homan said. “President Trump said we are going to enforce the law.”
ICE’s move to enlist county sheriffs’ departments for immigration enforcement is gaining particular momentum in Texas, which accounts for nearly a third of the 60 deals signed so far by local police units in a surging federal program.
This is not a positive development for the Latino community or for constitutional law and order, particularly given Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recent retreat from federal oversight of abusive police departments, and Mr. Trump’s recent assurance to police officers that they need not be “too nice” to people they arrest.
Mr. Trump’s immigration policy aims to speed up deportations of undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes. Sheriff Arpaio’s mini-version of this indiscriminate approach led to widespread detainment of innocent Latin American citizens and properly documented immigrants.
These authoritarian tactics made him a national hero in conservative circles, and Mr. Arpaio proclaimed himself “America’s toughest sheriff.” The controversy finally caught up with him as he continued to single out Latinos despite court warnings, and he was voted out as sheriff last year after six terms. The contempt conviction, which he plans to appeal, was rooted in the same defiance: In 2011, a court ordered him to stop detaining people on suspicions about their immigration status when there was no evidence a federal law had been broken. He persisted; as the court noted, he “announced to the world” he would not retreat “no matter who said otherwise.”
Mr. Homan of ICE said he hoped to see most of Texas’ 254 county sheriffs and its police chiefs sign immigration law pacts. Sheriff Joe’s inglorious fate — becoming a criminal miscreant in service to an illegal policy born of a cruel political agenda — suggests how foolish and demeaning that could be.
A version of this editorial appears in print on August 4, 2017, on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: The Law Catches Up With Sheriff Joe.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com