Arpaio doesn't count sheep at night. He counts Latinos and three Latinos are three Latinos too many. His ego is bigger than his paunch, so even after a restless night's sleep with nightmares of brown men refusing to shine his patrol car, he still has the energy to do a cheap imitation of John Wayne for the media.
To say that Arpaio is obsessed with immigration is to say that a ballet dancer is obsessed with staying fit and trim.
Before SB 1070, there was Arizona's "coyote statute," which made it a felony to smuggle people for profit in the state. Just like a western of days gone by, Arpaio organized posses of citizens and lawmen to roundup undocumented immigrants. "I'm not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico," he told the Washington Times. "I'll give them a free ride to my jail."
Besides being innately cruel, the sheriff is astonishing arrogant.
Last fall, without explanation, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded Arpaio's authority to arrest people under section 287(g)—although deputies can still check the immigration status of people arriving at the jails. In anticipation of the crackdown, Arpaio held a press conference. "We have arrested 1,600 illegals that have not committed any crime other than being here illegally," he boasted. "The secret is, we're still going to do the same thing—we have the state laws, and by the way, we'll still enforce the federal laws without the oversight, the policy, the restrictions that they put on us."Bogado tells the story of Native Americans who told her that they were often mistaken for Latinos. Alex, not his real name, was at a Circle K while his parents waited outside.
He ran out when he heard a group of Arpaio's deputies yelling at them to produce their papers. Then, Alex said, they demanded to see his ID, too, explaining, "The law says everyone here has to be legal."Alex is a third generation US citizen.
Then there was Celia Alejandra Alvarez, who told Bogado that sheriff's deputies broke her jaw when they raided the landscaping company where she worked.
Álvarez said she was denied adequate medical care during her three-month detention—a common complaint that has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits against Arpaio. Even after surgery, she added, her jaw still isn't back to normal—during our interview she paused periodically to readjust it. (In 2008, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care yanked (PDF) Maricopa County's accreditation, saying its jails failed to meet national standards.)Bogado tells about "Maruillo," a construction worker who has lived in this country without papers for 21 years. His two children are US citizens.
He said his family was camping at a lake over the Fourth of July weekend in 2008, when a fellow camper started yelling something about "too many Mexicans" and called the sheriff's office. The deputies, Maurilio and his wife told me, threw him down in the presence of his six-year-old son and shoved his face into the ground. They then yanked his head up by his hair and pepper-sprayed him as they cuffed him. After a few weeks at Durango, he was deported—and immediately headed to the desert to walk back north.Perhaps the most gut-wrenching story of all is the one about David de la Fuente who was arrested for driving with a fake licence and no documents. He was hauled off to Arpaio's notorious Durango Jail where he was charged with a fake ID. A short month later de la Fuente was dead.
When he arrived at Durango, de la Fuente became ill and began deteriorating rapidly. He told his cousin and sisters that "the guards kept dragging him back and forth between the prison yard (where temperatures reached 107 degrees) and the frigid jail—leaving him queasy and disoriented."
He also complained of severe chest pains, but fearing the guards might retaliate, told his family not to press the authorities about his condition. Eventually, de la Fuente was hauled before a judge, who fined him and put him on probation for giving an alias to the police. After three weeks in custody, he was turned over to federal immigration authorities, who delivered him the next day to Nogales, Mexico, about 700 miles north of his hometown. By that time, he was gravely ill.
He arrived in Colonia Emilio Carranza three days later, stumbling and barely able to speak. His family got him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with acute pneumonia. Based on the stage of his illness, the doctors determined that de la Fuente had contracted it about 15 days earlier—roughly a week into his jail stay—according to medical paperwork and an interview with the hospital director. The doctors did what they could, but de la Fuente was too far gone. His cousins and a sister stood vigil as he dwindled and eventually fell into a coma. He was pronounced dead on June 23—exactly four weeks after the traffic stop.
De la Fuente's cousin, Norberto Alvarado Santana, fights tears and stares out into the vast horizon near his cousin's grave.
This past September, during my visit to Colonia Emilio Carranza, Norberto Alvarado Santana said littleas he showed me his cousin's grave, in a humble cemetery adorned with plastic flowers and Virgen de Guadalupe figurines. A stout, reserved man, he measured his words cautiously before finally breaking the silence. "There's a word for what happened to my cousin David," he said. "It's homicide."