Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County has been called “the Donald Trump of Arizona” for his hardline stance on illegal immigration. Older white conservatives have kept him in a position of power for the last 24 years, but this election cycle a growing number of Latinx voters showed him the door.
Arpaio is well-known for running eight jails in which inmates are forced to wear pink underwear, endure the sweltering Arizona heat and are only given two meals a day; “saturation patrols” – sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods without evidence of criminal activity, in direct violation of federal regulations against racial profiling – and his extreme position on illegal immigration, which includes workplace raids and frequent traffic stops often involving racial profiling. He is also known for instigating the “birther movement”, a false accusation that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.
On Tuesday, Democrat Paul Penzone defeated Arpaio with 55 percent of the vote, sending a message that the power of Latinx voters is increasing and anti-immigrant hostility carries electoral consequences. Arpaio’s defeat is an important step in repairing the relationship between Maricopa County’s law enforcement and the community it is supposed to protect.
Although this is a victory for Latinxs in Arizona, the precedent of discrimination that Arpaio left behind is still to be fought. Arizona is the home of S.B. 1070, a law which requires police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are not in the U.S. legally. The author of the bill, Kris Kobach, has joined Donald Trump’s immigration policy team.
Now there is chatter that Donald Trump, an Arpaio-enthusiast, may appoint him to be the next secretary of Homeland Security.
“He lost his power when undocumented people lost their fear,” Carlos Garcia said, executive director of Puente, one of the advocacy groups formed to counter Arpaio’s divisive attitudes towards Latinx immigrants. “For us, what is most important now is to undo the damage and culture of hate that he has brought upon this county.”