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Maricopa County's "Bull Conner" Wreaks Havoc On The U.S. Constitution And Arizona Economy

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio misses no opportunity to justify his "immigration crime" sweeps and rant about how undocumented immigrants are burdening public services, and bankrupting Arizona's economy. Sheriff Joe "Bull" Arpaio is factually wrong and need look only into the mirror to see the cause of Arizona's current $4.5 billion deficit and the damage being done to the states' struggling economy.

Most Arizona small businesses are suffering in the wake of Arpaio's anti-Latino campaign of fear and intimidation. Latino legal residents, and the undocumented, who currently make up nearly 30% of Arizona's population are moving out of the state in record numbers. As a result Arizona is witnessing almost no customers in its grocery and retail stores, restaurants and hotels throughout the state. An epidemic of "For Lease" and "Going Out of Business" signs plague storefronts throughout the state's cities and towns. Many out-of-state companies have stopped doing business in Arizona - not because of political ideology - but because they want to avoid being associated with the anti-Latino bias of Sheriff Arpaio. The decline in business meetings and conventions in Arizona since April has negatively impacted 200,000 hospitality industry employees and their families.

On June 14th The Arizona Republic reported that the implementation of SB 1070 was very likely to cause a spike in foreclosures, vacant houses, and apartment vacancies.

Also, according to an April 2010 Perryman Group report , fully implementing SB 1070 would be a perilous economic move. If all undocumented immigrants to were leave the state, taking their tax dollars, businesses, and purchasing power - Arizona would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 JOBS!

Finally, the University of Arizona's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy estimates that the total economic output attributable to Arizona's immigrant workers was $44 billion in 2004, which sustained roughly 400,000 full-time all sector jobs. Furthermore, over 35,000 businesses in Arizona are Latino-owned, had sales of $4.3 billion and employed 39,363 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available from the U.S. Census.

Yet, not to be inconvenienced by U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton's July 28th decision - striking down SB 1070's most egregious provisions as unconstitutional - Sherriff Arpaio has arrogantly declared he would continue to do "business as usual" and continue his raids in Latino neighborhoods. Arpaio's actions shout to all that in his view neither the Courts nor the U.S. Constitution directly apply to him or his department of deputies.

It seems Sherriff Arpaio models himself in the son-of-the-south tradition of Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor, the most infamous of segregationists in the Deep South during the 1960's. Bull Connor is best remembered as the Public Safety Commissioner for the City of Birmingham, Alabama, who used police attack dogs and fire hoses on Freedom Fighters, peaceful African-American citizens, or anyone who good ol' Bull believed was working to end segregation in his city, or in the South. His legacy of mistreating African-Americans and others, famously captured on television and in newspapers across the country, would later backfire and spur America to embrace a Federal Civil Rights Act.

Fast forward forty or so years to Maricopa County, Arizona, where Sheriff Arpaio's brand of justice is not unlike the brand of mistreatment and intimidation practiced by Bull Connor. Take for example recent news reports that Arpaio has fostered horrendous jail conditions (erecting tent city detention camps in the summer heat), reckless police operations, and has carried out personal vendettas against political rivals and members of the press.

A federal grand jury began an inquiry into Arpaio's alleged abuse of power. And he is being investigated for politically motivated and "bogus" prosecutions, prompting the U.S. Attorney to call his actions "utterly unacceptable".

His heavy-handed tactics don't just include regular citizens. Arpaio's alleged abuse of power include or have included some of Arizona and Maricopa County's top elected officials, including the State Attorney General, members of the County Board of Supervisors, Phoenix's Mayor and; interestingly a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, who happens to be a Latino.

It is no wonder the editorial board of the New York Times called Arpaio, "America's Worst Sheriff". And it's no wonder that organizations like Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, and the American Jewish Committee along with the Arizona Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, among others, have condemned Arpaio's controversial tenure.

Now that the courts are finally beginning to bring some sanity and constitutional muster to the laws of Arizona, it is time for Arizonans to show Sheriff Arpaio the door.

History has shown Americans are a fair-minded people who have no tolerance for those who persecute minorities, and apply the Bill of Rights selectively.

The reality is that Arpaio's disrespect for human dignity in the name of cracking down on "illegal immigrants" not only drives a wedge between law enforcement and the Latino community; but sinks his own state's economy into an even deeper hole.

Basta Ya! Sheriff Joe "Bull" Arpaio must go - and Congress and the White House need to pass comprehensive immigration reform - sooner rather than later!

-- Jim Gonzalez is the Chairman of the Latino Policy Coalition, a national Latino policy think tank; a former San Francisco County Supervisor; and author of the first sanctuary city ordinance in the country.