A week after the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio survived a reelection campaign that spotlighted his flagrant anti-Latino practices and misuse of government funds, the Maricopa County enforcer is back to work making “every effort” to target undocumented immigrants.
In a press release issued by his office yesterday, Arpaio touted several recent operations to chase down ”suspected illegal aliens” that involved violence, injuries and some smuggled marijuana. And he is pledging to escalate this effort by arming all of his deputies with automatic weapons:
During one of the investigations on Wednesday of this week, Sheriff’s deputies tried to approach a vehicle they had observed at a high rate of speed, when the vehicle sped away, going off road driving through a barb-wire fence into the desert. The suspect vehicle sustained damage to include flat tires but continued to drive for about one mile before eight occupants, including the driver, fled on foot into the thick brush. Immediately deputies created a perimeter and with the use of the Sheriff’s helicopter and K-9 units, they located one suspect hiding in a backyard of a residence and all others hiding in a wash. [...]
Sheriff Joe Arpaio says, “Once again the entry into Maricopa County from Mexico by illegal aliens does not seem to have subsided by evidence of numerous arrests made by my deputies. Aside from their determination to get away we will continue to make every effort to pursue and apprehend human smugglers as well as drug traffickers. More and more illegal aliens are attempting to escape which places my deputies in dangerous positions. In the near future I will be issuing automatic weapons for all my deputies”.
Setting aside the savage tone of the press release, Arpaio’s boast of expending vast county police resources to chase down individuals in the desert is misplaced at best. While Arpaio continues to “make every effort” to snag these individuals through violent means, less local police resources are available for addressing violent and property crimes. Instead, he is increasing the risk of violence going forward by pledging to arm all of his deputies with automatic weapons.
What’s more, Arpaio’s aggressive efforts put him and his department at risk of becoming the target of yet another lawsuit. This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in striking down many of the most controversial provisions of Arizona’s immigration law that immigration enforcement is primarily the purview of the federal government. While the court left in place one controversial provisions that requires police to ask individuals about their immigration status pursuant to an otherwise lawful police stop, the five-justice majority left the door wide open for a later lawsuit challenging improper enforcement of this provision once the law went into effect.