Our VoiceCulture

Tanton Network Leaps to the Defense of Arpaio After Scathing DOJ Report Released


Stephen Piggott • Dec 21, 2011

photo taken from Gage Skidmore's flickr page

Last week the Department of Justice published a scathing 22-page report on the policies and actions of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The sheriff in Maricopa County is, of course, none other than Joe Arpaio. Arpaio’s civil rights violations have been scrutinized for years by immigrant and civil rights organizations, and now with this report the DOJ is fully backing up their claims.

Among the findings are the following:

  • Latino drivers are four-to-nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers on Maricopa County roadways.
  • Roughly one-fifth of traffic-related incident reports, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, contained information indicating that the stops were conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures.
  • Individual accounts regarding MCSO deputies stopping Latinos on the basis of their appearance corroborate the use of discriminatory policing practices.
  • A number of instances in which immigration-related crime suppression activities were initiated in the community after MCSO received complaints that described no criminal activity, but rather referred, for instance, to individuals with “dark skin” congregating in one area, or individuals speaking Spanish at a local business.
  • MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unlawful seizures, including unjustified stops, detentions, and arrests of Latinos in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14141.
  • MCSO detention officers discriminatorily punish Latino LEP (Limited English Proficient) inmates who fail to understand commands given in English by, for example, locking down their pods (which increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence), or imposing disciplinary segregation (solitary confinement).
  • The pervasive nature of MCSO’s discriminatory treatment of Latinos reflects a general culture of bias within MCSO.

The report was welcomed by the immigrant rights community, but of course the anti-immigrant community scoffed at the report, choosing instead to defend Arpaio.

Ira Mehlman, spokesperson for the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) stated, “The Justice Department has been turned into an attack dog to sic on anybody who tries to enforce immigration laws.” Jessica Vaughan of the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) said that the Obama administration “has been gunning for Arpaio for a long time [….] His [Arpaio’s] efforts on immigration law enforcement help keep everybody in this country safer.’’

When you look at the background of both FAIR and CIS, it’s not difficult to fathom why they would defend Arpaio and the “general culture of bias” within the MCSO.

Both FAIR and CIS were founded by white nationalist John Tanton, after all, and Tanton has a long track record of racist musings and associations including stating, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

With such statements and such adamant defenses, it’s clear that those within the Tanton Network and the MCSO are cut from the same nativist cloth.

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