MCT FORUM By Jose Miguel Leyva –
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s kingdom in Maricopa County needs to come to an end. For too many years, his office has weathered scandal after scandal, lawsuit upon lawsuit, and Arpaio continues to run the sheriff’s department with prejudice and hatred.
Ernest Atencio, who died on Dec. 20 after being tased by sheriff’s deputies, is only the latest in a series of suspicious and wrongful deaths associated with the jails. As long as the jail is run under Arpaio’s abusive thumb, it will not be the last tragic death.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently released a 22-page report outlining many of Arpaio’s cruel practices, such as punishing Latino inmates who fail to understand English commands, and denying them “critical services” required by law.
Since 2007, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office “has implemented practices that treat Latinos as if they are all undocumented,” the report states. These unconstitutional practices, it added, are “harming innocent Latinos.”
In 1993, when Arpaio started placing inmates in a tent city instead of in proper facilities, he claimed that military tents were good enough for the soldiers serving in the Gulf War, and therefore good enough for prisoners. Atencio was himself a Gulf War veteran, and the fate he met in Arpaio’s jail should serve as a sad reminder of the twisted way in which “America’s Toughest Sheriff” conducts his job.
The Justice Department has now revoked the authorization of Arpaio and his deputies to conduct federal immigration screenings in county jails. But that is not enough. Arpaio must be removed from office.
He is blaming his glaring failures as sheriff on a supposed witch hunt by the Obama administration. But the only witch hunt Arpaio has been involved in is the one he has spearheaded against Latinos.