Reflections of a Humanist

 

_Sheriff Joe Arpaio Invited to a Kendall County 
Republican Family Picnic: A Call to Action

by Dan Kenney

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            Saturday August 27, at the Kendall County Fairgrounds the Kendall County Republicans are holding their annual family picnic. And they are pleased and proud to present as their keynote speaker Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, who they bill as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” One could also add America’s most corrupt and racist sheriff. U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren will also be in attendance at the picnic, along with Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and State Representative Tom Cross, and their families. They will also have autographed pink boxer shorts for sale, $15, a souvenir for the kids to take home, I guess. The pink boxers are in honor of the fact that Sheriff Joe forces his inmates to wear pink underwear; claiming pink is a calming color. He also uses pink handcuffs on the prisoners.

            The Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff has been called an extreme human-rights violator. The stern law-and-order advocate has declared war on illegal immigration in his large jurisdiction, which takes in Phoenix. Arpaio, caught the nation’s attention when he chose to house his inmates in tents when jails reached capacity, the tent prisons have become known as “Tent City”. Though Arpaio's severe tactics are popular among Arizonans, his deputies have attracted widespread criticism in their pursuit of illegal immigrants for harassment and the racial profiling of Latinos. Just a small fraction of the 33,000 arrests he has overseen have been based on documentation checks in the field, but Arpaio says the program to allow field checks is symbolically important: "This is a crime-deterrent program, too."

            “We are ecstatic that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is coming out to Kendall County to support the Republicans in Kendall County. I have always been a huge fan and supporter of his, and I always have said we need more law enforcement officials like him.” said Ken Toftoy, Chairmanof the KCRCC and Kendall County Coroner since 1992.  "This guy is doing the right things," Toftoy said. "Staying in jail shouldn't be like staying at the Conrad Hilton. And people who do cross the border illegally are breaking the law. They should be arrested. I don't think the sheriff is doing anything wrong. I absolutely believe in what he is doing."

            “I like the guy. I follow him,” Toftoy said. “I think more and more sheriffs, it’d be nice if they followed his lead. Of course, not everyone in the Midwest can do that because of the winter time. I just think in the United States, we’re too nice to these people. They screwed up and broke the law.”

            The sheriff Mr. Toftoy thinks should be held up as a model to all sheriffs is the first sheriff to start female and juvenile chain gangs. His office has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits since he has been in office, leading to $43 million in settlements and expenses. Some role model!  Still Kendall county’s Coroner Toftoy said Arpaio can come off as tough, but he’s a “straight-up guy” when you get to know him.

            It has been reported that on July 2 of this year, when the temperature in Phoenix hit 118 degrees, Arpaio measured the temperature inside Tent City at 145 degrees. Some inmates complained that the fans near their beds were not working and that their shoes were melting from the heat. However an analysis by the Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget, completed September 2010, found Arpaio has mishandled almost $100 million in taxpayer dollars over the previous five years. The analysis showed that some of the money was inappropriately spent on investigations of political rivals. Also misspent paying for deputies to travel to Disneyland and included a trip for the deputies to a fishing resort in Alaska. But at least he is a “straight-up guy.”

            All of this expense is maybe why Sheriff Joe has also started using cheaper meals, sometimes serving up food that is spoiled, and he has even cut salt and pepper to save money.

 Arpaio also uses chain gangs, wearing striped 1940s-style uniforms, to paint over graffiti and to bury indigent people in a county cemetery.  Sheriff Arpaio’s recent abuse of power involved marching detained immigrants in black and white striped prison clothes through the streets of Phoenix to the “tent city” on the edge of town where immigrants are segregated. His targeting of the Latino community in Maricopa County is destroying Arizona’s rich multicultural heritage. The sheriff’s tactics include intentionally targeting the Latino community with raids of Latino neighborhoods and workplaces; detaining people who cannot prove their citizenship during routine traffic violations.

            Locally you can count union leader Corey Johnson, business representative of Laborers Local 149 Aurora, as one of the Arpaio critics.   Johnson said the Republican committee has made a mistake in inviting Arpaio to talk during the picnic. The local laborers union boasts several Hispanic members. He said these members have asked Johnson and the union leadership to speak out against the choice of speaker whom these members say has long discriminated against Hispanic residents in Arizona.

            "These members are the same ones who go to our churches. They are same ones whose kids go to our schools. They are the same ones who pay taxes in our community," Johnson said. "Yet the local Republicans bring in a guy who is truly offensive to them....This guy is like the super villain of the Hispanic community. He is the Lex Luthor of the Hispanic nation. And still, the party brings him here to speak. I don't think that's a good move."

            As a means of showing support to those union members who oppose Arpaio's policies, Johnson said, the laborers union will consider whether to donate money to the political campaigns of any politicians who attend the Republicans' family picnic.  "We try to give support to the candidates in both parties, as long as they are for working people," Johnson said. "We try not to lean either left or right. But when you have a party bringing in a guy like this, it's a non-starter."

            Sheriff Joe Arpaio has misused his authority to create an environment of fear and intimidation all over Maricopa County. The sheriff’s tactics destroy families and the larger fabric of community in the Phoenix area. In the name of justice, he and the Sheriff's department rely on the worst acts of profiling, discrimination and civil rights abuses. His actions also fail to address the criminal problems that result from the human and drug trafficking across the border because they only victimize the powerless.

            In 2009, Phoenix New Times columnist wrote, “Every time I watch Sheriff Joe unleash his ‘posse’ on another neighborhood with a high Hispanic population, arresting people with brown skin for the most stupid of offenses such as honking their horn, having a taillight out, not signaling when they change lanes, I have to wonder how anyone could not see this as an assault on an entire race of people.”

            And I have to wonder how inviting this law breaking and human rights violator to our neighborhood is not seen as an assault on our Hispanic neighbors, co-workers, and friends. If as a people we believe in justice and security for all citizens, and if we believe in standing up to tyrants, then we will not let this bully walk onto our block with out protesting.

            Join others who are outraged on Saturday August 27, 2011, at the Kendall County Fairgrounds, located at 10826 Illinois Route 71 in Yorkville. It is time to stand with all of those who are against the politics of racism.

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Thanks to Dan Kenney for permission to reprint this article here.   The Republicons' dinner will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Kendall County Fairgrounds, 10826 Route 71, York­ville.  Critics of Arpaio and the Republicons' invitation to him to speak will be protesting there.  For a $100 donation, participants can get their picture taken with Arpaio. The committee will also sell autographed pink shorts for $15.  For more information, go to www.kendallgop.com.