Carlos Garcia grew up in Arizona and is a leader of Puente Arizona, a human rights organization seeking to improve conditions for migrant families in Maricopa County, Ariz.
Now that the Department of Justice has closed its investigation into the troubled office of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, what lessons are there from Maricopa County?
In reading the DOJ report, it serves as an indictment not just of Arpaio but also of the Department of Homeland Security and the federal immigration programs that made his crimes possible. After three years of scrutiny, the report documents "the most egregious case of racial profiling" investigators had ever personally witnessed. It goes on to conclude that in establishing his "immigration enforcement program" the sheriff's department treated "Latinos as if they are all undocumented, regardless of [any] factual basis."
The programs mentioned in the report are not unique to Maricopa. They are the centerpiece of the DHS's enforcement agenda. Through efforts like Criminal Alien Program, 287(g), and Secure Communities, DHS transformed Sheriff Arpaio into a monster by granting him unprecedented and unchecked power to enforce federal immigration laws—allowing him to carry out his crusade against our communities.
While we experienced the horrors of these programs locally, DHS touted "success stories" from one of its largest Police-ICE local partnerships.
With the DOJ report, Arpaio lost his poster boy status for DHS. What prompted demonstrations across the globe to denounce the local/federal collaboration became codified with the official seal of government and prompted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to do what should've been done on the first day of her job: stripping Arpaio of his immigration badge.
However, clipping Arpaio's wings is only the beginning of what's required if DHS is to address the lessons from Arizona. As the truth comes out in Maricopa County, the department is still paving the way for the Arizonification of the country through the same programs that gave rise to our civil and human rights crisis in Maricopa County.
The "wall of distrust" described in the DOJ report is one that is being built across the country between local police departments and immigrant communities everywhere.
The impacts on U.S. citizens profiled and unlawfully detained across the country are coming to light as these programs are forcefully expanded. It's long overdue: the Obama administration should uphold rights for all and end the disastrous experiments of police-ICE cooperation that are the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs.
- See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.
- Read about four roadblocks to Obama's immigration reform.
- Read the U.S. News debate on building a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border.