Saturday, November 19, 2011

Arizonans who ousted anti-immigration lawmaker set sights on sheriff

Sheriff Joe is too popular for that to work

A group of Arizona residents who promoted the recall of Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, the chief architect of the state's harsh anti-immigration law, now aims to thwart the reelection of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"Just like Pearce, Sheriff Arpaio takes an extremist position against immigrants, against immigration, and we want that to end," Randy Parraz, cofounder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, told Efe.

The 79-year-old sheriff is the only law enforcement official in the state to mount workplace raids in search of the undocumented.

Arpaio, who cultivates a reputation as "the toughest sheriff in the West," is currently being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department on charges of racial profiling against Hispanics.

The sheriff will seek reelection in 2012, which is why Citizens for a Better Arizona plans to inform voters about his department's actions against the community.

"We're going to take action, we're going to set our sights on him," Parraz said, adding that a formal announcement of their campaign will be made next Monday in front of the state capitol in Phoenix.

Arpaio has been sheriff of Maricopa County - which includes Phoenix - since 1993, though his popularity among voters waned as time passed.

While in 2004 he won 56.7 percent of the vote, in 2008 he won 55.2 percent. In 2007 another civic group failed to gather 200,000 voter signatures to force a special election to recall Arpaio.

Parraz said that these new efforts to thwart Arpaio's reelection will focus on his record and, just as they did with Pearce, will not support any alternative candidate.

On Nov. 8, voters in state senate District 18 in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa made history by recalling Pearce, the main promoter of SB 1070, the first law in the country that seeks to criminalize the presence of the undocumented.

Since its enactment last year, SB 1070 has served as a model for other states to pass even tougher measures against illegal immigration.

Citizens for a Better Arizona was the group that collected the signatures needed to hold a special election to recall Pearce.

"We want the sheriff to understand that we as voters have the right to question his actions and that he must give answers," Parraz said. "Once again the Hispanic vote will be very important, especially in times like these. I believe this is a historic moment in Arizona that began with the recall of Pearce and can continue with Arpaio."

For his part, Arpaio told Efe he isn't worried about the campaign against him. "I'm going to keep on doing my job, nothing has changed with Pearce leaving office, my work is to apply the laws and that's what I'll do," he said


Federal government launches broad review of immigration court cases

The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday it will begin reviewing about 300,000 deportation proceedings to implement prosecutorial discretion measures laid out in a June 2011 memo issued by John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE).

The Office of Principal Legal Advisor at ICE in charge of the review has been directed to review “incoming cases and cases pending in immigration court.” The purpose of the review, according to guidance directives also issued Thursday, “is to identify those cases that reflect a high enforcement priority for the Department of Homeland Security.”

According to The New York Times, “the accelerated triage of the court docket — about 300,000 cases — is intended to allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks, Homeland Security officials said.”

The guidance distributed to all immigration attorneys in Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE lists terrorism, felony convictions, murder, sexual abuse, drug trafficking, illegal entry, reentry and immigration fraud among the crimes that are removal priorities.

Cases not considered enforcement priorities include members of the armed forces, children who have been in the U.S. for more than five years or came to the U.S. before the age of 16, people over 65, domestic violence victims, and people seeking asylum.

The Times adds that “immigration agency lawyers will examine all new cases just arriving in immigration courts nationwide, with an eye to closing cases that are low-priority according to the Morton memorandum, before they advance into the court system,” while “immigrants identified as high priority will see their cases put onto an expedited calendar for judges to order their deportations, Homeland Security officials said.”

Immigrant advocates have had different reactions to the review of deportation proceedings.

The National Day Laborers Organizing Network argues that Thursday’s announcement: "highlights how completely out of whack the Administration’s immigration priorities are. President Obama has chosen to deport 400,000 people a year. Moreover, its decision to turn local police into “force multipliers” through [Secure Communities] has caused immeasurable suffering: families have been destroyed, community safety has been undermined, and Latinos’ civil rights have been imperiled as we witness an entire generation of Americans in Waiting criminalized by these policies.

B. Loewe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network told the Independent in August that the case review" "may bring with it an expansion of the definition of “criminal,” because the damaging label is never actually defined. As we’ve seen in Secure Communities, those who they define as criminals are people whose only offense may be driving without a license or may actually only be immigration-related. There’s the potential for many to be condemned under the agency’s new scarlet letter, the title of “criminal.”

The National Immigration Forum, meanwhile, welcomed ”the launch of the Administration’s long-promised review designed to reduce the backlog of deportation cases and prioritize resources. In this time of great concern about our nation’s fiscal health, it makes sense to focus valuable law enforcement resources on the deportation of individuals who are genuine threats to public and national safety.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (aka FAIR) writes that the Department of Homeland Security is beginning “Amnesty Screenings” with the move. FAIR supports immigration enforcement measures like Arizona’s infamous S.B. 1070 and “lower immigration levels.” It has said the prosecutorial discretion measures issued by Morton “constitute nothing less than the granting of administrative amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens.”


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