Now that the political posturing of the elections are behind us, it’s time for those in office to get to roll up their sleeves and enact policies that will take our country forward. Free of ballot box considerations, the next months will demonstrate to the country where President Obama truly stands.
Up until now, the rancid anti-immigrant atmosphere created by Republicans has left the president free to triangulate his position on the issue. As long as the administration shows a hair’s width more compassion, the Democrats assume they’ve secured the Latino vote.
One place that assumption will be put to the test is in Maricopa County, Arizona. In the state that codified discrimination this Spring and most recently banned affirmative action as of the elections, the administration appears to be talking from both sides of his mouth.
On one hand, President Obama took the politically courageous (if not constitutionally obligatory) step to file suit in Arizona against SB 1070.
On the other hand, he has massively ramped up the very policies which created the political conditions for 1070’s passage in the first place. Most significantly, he has failed to reign in Joe Arpaio- a Sheriff who now puts the US on the map with human rights offenders from far corners of the world.
Is Obama an accomplice to Arpaio?
What was once considered federal inaction may now look like federal intention. After the first of the growing mega marches in Phoenix, Arizona, the Department of Justice launched what has now been a two year long investigation with no concrete results. Criminal investigations of Arpaio’s abuse of power and mismanagement abound but have yet to unseat the Sheriff. The sheriff’s recent legacy includes forced chain gangs of inmates, the shackling of pregnant women in labor, and the expansion of his outdoor tent facilities he’s referred to as ‘concentration camps.’
Instead of reeling in a rogue officer, the Department of Homeland Security continues to contract with Arpaio to carry out immigration enforcement. While some attempt to make the claim that they’ve clipped the Sheriff’s wings, DHS trained fifteen new 287(g) officers, empowered as immigration agents, just last month.
Yesterday, the Department’s numbers displayed what no amount of spin could hide. Maricopa County accounts for more than 25% of all those tagged for immigration proceedings under the federal 287g program. Almost an entire 1% of the population of Maricopa County or more than 36,000 residents have been taken in by Arpaio’s volunteer posses in the past four years, nearly double the number of any other participating county.
So while the President and Arpaio may have had a spat in the media last Spring, what we see in their reports is a far more friendly relationship.
If Obama doesn't act to reign in the Frankenstein created by 287g in Arizona, and if he doesn't stop the programs which will make other Arpaio's out of sheriffs elsewhere, any gains made among Latino voters will be a castle in the sand.