Joe Arpaio illustrates why immigration enforcement should not be in the hands of local police and sheriff officials.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department found the Maricopa County sheriff discriminated against Latinos. Basically, he and his deputies practiced racial profiling.
A report by the government found Latinos are four to nine times more likely to be pulled over in traffic stops in Maricopa County than non-Latinos. Arpaio's sheriff’s department also treated all Latinos as if they were undocumented, the government found.
The fact is that 75 percent of the 50 million Latinos in the United States are U.S. citizens or naturalized citizens, according to the National Council of La Raza. It is estimated that Latinos make up three-quarters of the 11 million undocumented or around 8 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Therefore less than 20 percent of Latinos are undocumented and more than 80 percent are not.
This is why Arpaio's racial profiling practices are so dangerous because the overwhelming number of Latinos in this country are not undocumented.
Still, just being brown, having and accent or speaking Spanish makes one suspect in some places.
Even more disturbing are recent reports of U.S. citizens who are Latino who have been detained by U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement.
Antonio Montejano, 40, was arrested and held for days in Los Angeles even though he is a U.S. citizen. His is one of four recent cases of U.S. citizens being detained by immigration in Los Angeles, according to National Public Radio.
Arpaio exemplifies the dangers of the Arizona law SB 1070 that many feared would sanction statewide the type of racial profiling practiced by Arpaio. The same problems can arise if other states follow suit.
The Supreme Court will take up the Arizona case in 2012. Alabama's immigration law also has been held up in part by the courts and could also reach the Supreme Court.
Hopefully, Arpaio will be a lesson as to why states and municipalities should not be charged with enforcing federal immigration law.
They don't have the training and by acting as immigration police they undermine their ability to investigate local crimes. Immigrants regardless of their status become suspicious and fearful of police and are less likely to report crimes if they fear they could be harmed.
This is a position that has been echoed by many police chiefs around the country and reported in a study by the Police Executive Research Forum.
The government also revoked Arpaio's authority to use its immigration databases. They are replacing his sheriffs with trained immigration officials that will check the immigration status of people arrested.
Arpaio also has other problems. He is accused of not investigating cases of sexual assault of women. There also are accusations of financial misconduct and corruption.
Arpaio has been described as the so called "toughest sheriff in America." I think there is a better description for him - law breaker.