Immigration

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Is Racking Up Legal Bills. He Wants You To Help Pay Them.

CREDIT: Ross D. Franklin

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

An anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff is asking the public to help with his legal fees while he waits for a decision on a contempt of court hearing about his department’s systemic racial profiling of suspected undocumented immigrants. In an email to supporters last week, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wrote that he doesn’t have the “personal wealth” to pay for a lawyer and felt “targeted” by pro-immigration reform advocacy groups that are suing him to stop his acts of racial bias against Latinos.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Arpaio wrote in his email, “In some instances I have to personally pay for attorneys to represent me in these cases. I do not have the personal wealth or the wherewithal to keep up with the costly demands of paying for attorneys to defend me.”

The hearing stems from a May 2013 landmark ruling by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow who said that Arpaio’s office broke the law when he profiled Latinos during traffic and immigration stops. The ruling called on Arpaio and his officers to implement changes, like improving training and technology equipment, to show that the sheriff’s office would no longer systemically single out Latinos. But since then, Arpaio has made insincere efforts to address racial biases, including holding court-required community outreach meetings in districts with few Latino residents and declining to show up at meetings.

Arizona taxpayers already shell out a lot of money for Arpaio, who has racked up numerous violations and lawsuits and was ordered a court-appointed monitor for his unconstitutional racial profiling tactics.

Documents submitted by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office last year in Arizona indicate that it would cost around $21.9 million for taxpayers to implement court recommendations to fix Arpaio’s acts racial bias. As of last year, Maricopa County ponied up $1.6 million in legal costs and expenses for Arpaio’s court proceedings. And an internal investigation found that Arpaio’s security detail cost taxpayers more than $120,000 between June 2012 and June 2013.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Arpaio asked for the judge to be taken off the case because “the judge is personally involved.” Arpaio revealed in April that his former lawyer had hired a private agent to investigate a claim that Snow’s wife said her husband “wanted to do everything to make sure I’m not elected.”

Arpaio is no stranger to using provocative tactics against suspected undocumented immigrants. Since 1993, his sweltering outdoor jail known as “Tent City” has held thousands of immigrant detainees in the brutal Phoenix heat. His immigration raids are indiscriminate to age and medical condition, arresting children as young as 6 and pregnant women. Arpaio also once promised to issue automatic weapons to his deputies to catch “illegal aliens attempting to escape.”

Years of racial profiling may likely put public safety at risk. Researchers found that immigrants are less likely to report crimes to the police because they are afraid of being asked about their immigration status.

Still, there have been some improvements made for undocumented immigrants in Maricopa County since the state passed some of the harshest immigration laws in 2010. Earlier this month, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled for some so-called DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, to pay in-state tuition.