News is expected to break today that the Obama administration will grant federal immigration law enforcement authority to this guy:

I will do another crime suppression very soon to show Washington and everybody else I’m not changing, I will not be intimidated by Congress, by alleged racial profiling investigations by the Justice Department, by all these demonstrators, these politicians, all trying to keep me from doing my job, so nothing will change. Stay tuned.

Introducing Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Small-town, crazy man?  Nope – Arpaio is the chief law enforcement officer of a jurisdiction larger than that of 48 US Senators, and though it might sound like something an Alabama politician would have said in 1948, Arpaio said it about a week ago.

Arpaio picks a predominantly Latino community, and unleashing officers and his “posse” (the official name) of armed deputized citizens demanding to see proof of legal status from Latinos.  A broken tail light in Maricopa might result in an hour-long interrogation or the deportation of your cousin.  And Arpaio has announced that he is doing one of these sweeps TODAY.

This stuff can’t be made up:  under investigation by the Justice Department and the FBI, sued thousands of times for civil rights violations and racial profiling; marches chain gangs through town; and his jails have lost their health accreditation.  He even forces prisoners to wear pink underwear and eat green bologna sandwiches.  He calls the press, laughs about it, exploits the racial divide and gets reelected.

All of this has brought him notoriety among a certain set. He has been praised on white nationalist websites and was named honorary chair of Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign.

Arpaio’s tactics are the realization of the right-wing immigration strategy called “attrition through enforcement,” which basically means that to clean the streets of “illegals” you scare the shit out of immigrant families and keep entire communities in a state of constant terror to the point that they “self deport.” But you can’t terrorize a mom and not terrorize her US citizen daughter, so you terrorize them all.

Arpaio is working with the federal government under the auspices of a section of immigration law called “287(g).” It was created by the Republican Congress and signed by the Clinton administration in 1996, but it wasn’t until the Bush era that the program really got going.

The idea was to empower local law enforcement jurisdictions to go after undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes.  But the provision has led to rampant racial profiling in communities where Hispanics are viewed with suspicion  and are assumed to be criminals because of their race.  A new analysis of one 287(g) city in Texas by the Warren Institute at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law found that an astonishing 98 percent of immigrants detained by police and determined to be undocumented were brought in on “petty offenses.”  And check this out:

In addition to facing arrests for minor violations, such as knocking over a cone or driving without lights, Hispanics who are lawfully in the U.S. bear the burden of proving their status, first to local police and then to ICE.

For those with brown skin, lack of immigration status and criminality is assumed.

This isn’t much different from the policing philosophy expressed by Homer, Louisiana police chief, Russell Mills, last March:

If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names,” said Mills, who is white. “I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested.  We’re not out there trying to abuse and harass people — we’re trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear.

Sorry, ma’am. In the interest of national security, I’m going to need to see your papers.  Arpaio basically admitted that he engages in racial profiling by releasing a “legal analysis” that was supposed to justify his tactics but it was debunked by journalists and advocates.  Oh, and I should mention that it was written by an organization designated as a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

To be sure, President Obama inherited a civil rights nightmare otherwise known as ICE, the US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  ICE was built up by Bush appointee, Julie Myers, who you might remember as the woman who awarded a staff member in blackface the “most original costume” award at an ICE Halloween party. She was also rumored to have leaked the immigration status of President Obama’s aunt.  In addition to contracting with Arpaio, rogue ICE agents have barged into people’s homes without legal authority time and again.

So now what?

The Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary Janet Napolitano, has begun to make changes in immigration enforcement.  Arpaio, in fact, was offered a scaled- back version of 287(g) from the Bush agreement, but the Obama administration should have cut him off completely. I mean, come on!  And despite the reports of racial profiling around the country, the Administration actually expanded the program and offered contracts to more cities.

President Obama has pledged to sign comprehensive immigration reform legislation into law.  When that happens, millions of law-abiding immigrants will register and officially become a part of the American experience with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.  And when that happens, the few bad apples will stand out like a sore thumb.

So today, Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to announce an official agreement to continue working with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  A local elected official who operates above the law.  Change takes courage – and this one was a no brainer.

Cross-Posted at America’s Voice, Huffington Post, and the Daily Kos.

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