Enter Bill Montgomery, whose campaign for County Attorney last year received $500,000 from Joe Arpaio's hefty war chest. Any thoughts about who Montgomery owes allegiance to?
A week ago Stephen Lemons at New Times published "Same as the Old Boss," which documents how Montgomery is continuing Thomas's anti-immigrant policies. Lemons writes of Luz Ruiz Rascon, who was nabbed in one of Sheriff Arpaio's immigration sweeps at a GNC warehouse. The young mother of two children, one suffering from leukemia, she's been locked away in Arpaio's intolerable gulag for six months—not allowed bail by County Attorney Montgomery because he considers her a felon and flight risk. Her crime was victimless, since the Social Security Number (SSN) she used when applying for the job at GNC 11 years ago belongs to no one, and Montgomery could charge her with a misdemeanor, which would make her bondable. But he won't, and Luz Ruiz Rascon is not alone, writes Lemons:
But as in hundreds of such cases prosecuted here every year, the County Attorney's Office charges immigrants with class-four or even class-three felonies, forcing on them an unenviable choice: plead guilty to a felony charge that probably will result in deportation when they are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or wait for months for trial in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails.Rafael Lavallade Gonzalez, who also began working at the GNC warehouse 11 years ago, was caught in the same raid and, like Rascon, he was denied bail. Because he refused to plead guilty and face deportation, Gonzalez also waited in Arpaio's jail for six months before his case recently came to trial. A proud elderly man who has raised two successful children with his wife, Gonzalez took the stand last week during his 7-day trial:
Thin and frail, with a lion's mane of white hair and dark-rimmed glasses, Gonzalez, a 70-year-old diabetic, stood charged with four counts related to forgery and using the identity of another for employment. New TimesGonzalez's story and so much more over the bump.
On the stand, Gonzalez told how he came to America in the 1990s, and for five years traipsed the blazing sidewalks of Phoenix selling popsicles from a rented pushcart. Eventually he earned enough to buy a truck, from which he sold ice cream until he landed the job at GNC, working his way up from menial laborer to warehouse packer. All this time Gonzalez paid taxes, was never arrested, and he and his wife saw their daughter and son graduate from Arizona State University. Similar to Ms. Rascon, he held a steady job at the GNC warehouse for 11 years, hardly a seasonal worker who was a flight risk. Arizona is his home and has been for years, yet he and others were denied bail to continue working and be with their families while awaiting trial.
Thanks to some smart and committed lawyers, the jury heard that Gonzalez's crime of using someone else's SSN was a mistake not of his doing. He had written his Tax Identification Number (TIN), which he obtained legally from the IRS, into the SSN space when he applied for the job at GNC, not knowing the difference between the two numbers. His TIN was whited-out and someone else wrote a SSN over it. If you know anyone in the construction, warehouse or restaurant business, you've probably heard that it's not uncommon for employers to make up SSNs on the application so they can say they're in compliance with E-Verify if audited. Of course, if caught the worker goes to jail, not the employer.
Once the SSN error was uncovered, the rest of the case collapsed and the jury acquitted Gonzalez after a short deliberation. According to Stephen Lemons at New Times, it cost Maricopa County nearly $17,000 to incarcerate the elderly gentleman for a half year, and that doesn't include the week-long trial costs, let alone preparation. In addition to the taxpayers' losses, Gonzalez lost six months pay. How many people making a laborer's wage, or any of us, can suffer that without severe consequences?
The question remains
Why are undocumented men and women who are rounded up in Arpaio's net considered dangerous felons, imprisoned alongside rapists, thieves and murderers? Especially when background checks show they have lived responsibly with a clean record, why are they locked up for months without the possibility of bail? Does County Attorney Bill Montgomery really think a 70-year-old man with a home and family in the community, a diabetic with no criminal background, will jump bail? Heck, two years ago in a sensational front-page story in Phoenix Sen. Scott Bungaard assaulted his girlfriend on the median of a freeway. Although he beat up a woman and the cops testified that he had been drinking, the senator made bail and hasn't spent a day in jail.
Scott Bundgaard is white.
As with Arpaio-Thomas, the Arpaio-Montgomery team is doing its best to alienate Latinos through their racist media harrumphing and prosecutorial procedures. And that makes Sheriff Arpaio's appearance last week before a group of Hispanic community leaders all the more surreal—a meeting that took place just days before one of the sheriff's immigration sweeps. Arpaio told the crowd that if they only knew him better, they'd realize he's just a big misunderstood teddy bear:
"They are concerned with my reputation with the Hispanic community and I was concerned about the kids fearing the sheriff. That's not me," says Arpaio.Yeah, where the hell would Hispanic kids get the idea that they should fear the Sheriff's Office? It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that his deputies pull over Hispanic drivers three to nine times more often than others, would it? It certainly can't be SB 1070, Arpaio's wet dream, which allows his deputies to ask anyone they want for papers, or haul them in without cause. And certainly kids wouldn't get that idea they should fear Arpaio from his beige-uniformed goons goose-stepping through neighborhoods and businesses rounding up whoever they want—often ripping apart stable families. Nor could it be the documented torture and murder of Latino inmates in his jail.
Earnest "Marty" Atencio, 44 years old, died on December 20, 2011. His dead body was covered with bruises, lacerations and puncture marks—wounds that made him look like the victim of a vicious attack by criminals. But Marty Atencio wasn’t attacked on the street; the attack that cost him his life took place at the Maricopa County Jails (MCJ) in Phoenix, run by the self-styled "toughest sheriff in America," Joe Arpaio, and the assailants wore badges and uniforms.And what could possibly put the notion in this little girl's head that she should fear Arpaio and his deputies?
Civil rights leaders were not pleased with Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski, a Latino himself, for arranging the meeting between Arpaio and Hispanic leaders, an attempt to make the sheriff look conciliatory and willing to work with the community. Pastors actually laid hands on Arpaio and prayed for him. You can pray as hard as you want guys, but I doubt it'll do any good.
Dozens of protestors showed up at Phoenix City Hall this week holding signs intended for Councilman Nowakowski. They reminded him of the hundreds of Hispanic brothers and sisters nabbed by Arpaio's immigration sweeps and trapped in Montgomery's legal hell. They let him know about the more than 400 sex crimes that Arpaio's office neglected to investigate or prosecute—some of the assaults committed on Hispanic children who haven't even started kindergarten:
We demand Councilman Nowakowski apologize to the families of incarcerated workers for his association with the wors[t] child abuser in Maricopa County.In 2010, longtime Republican Sen. Carolyn Allen resigned from her very secure seat, saying, "I do not want to live in the police state that Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas are spearheading." They were a hellish triumvirate: the author of SB 1070, Pearce was Senate president and steered the legislative agenda; Thomas interpreted the law to give Arpaio legal protection; and the sheriff himself carried out the dirty work on the ground.
Pearce and Thomas both left in disgrace: Pearce was recalled in 2011 and Thomas was debarred, leaving only Teflon Joe. County Attorney Bill Montgomery appears willing to fill Thomas's nativist shoes, and a gaggle of crazy SOBs at the Capitol are continuing Russell Pearce's legislative assault on brown people—calling for more border walls, for hospitals to refuse care to undocumented people, for schools to single out Mexican children, for the state to deny drivers licenses to DREAMers.
Recalling Sheriff Arpaio may not wipe away the shit stain of hate he's spread across Maricopa County these past 20 years, but it's a start. Pass the Charmin—extra strength.