Whenever people in Austin ask me where I'm from, I usually hesitate just the briefest moment before telling them I'm from Arizona. I pause, knowing full well that I'm about to get an earful about their opinions on the state and its politics.
I'm from Mesa, AZ to be exact, which is right in the heart of Maricopa County, which is currently under fire from the U.S. Justice Department for refusing to work with federal investigators who accused the County Sheriff's Department of rampant racist treatment of the population of Hispanic and Latnio residents of the state.
According to extensive reports detailing investigations began in 2008, initial findings were made by the Justice Department regarding discriminatory policing by the Sheriff's department including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos. The statement also notes the regular denial of proper legal services to limited English-speaking inmates and a regular use of racial slurs towards Hispanics by detention officers in the jails.
Most shockingly, the Justice Department accused the office of not investigating "a large number" of sex crimes throughout the county. The Sheriff's office even admitted that 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation remained improperly investigated — many of them involving Latino victims.
Today, Arpaio's top prosecutor and right hand man, Andrew Thomas, was unanimously disbarred after ethics investigators with the State Bar of Arizona found he "abused his authority even to the point of committing crimes himself."
With all these findings piling up, the Justice Department is preparing to sue Arpaio and his office for refusing to participate in settlement talks to determine corrective measures. (Chief among them: instituting an independent monitor to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff's Department and continue demarcating offenses.)
Today, Arpaio's top prosecutor and right hand man, Andrew Thomas, was unanimously disbarred after ethics investigators with the State Bar of Arizona found he "abused his authority even to the point of committing crimes himself." Thomas' aide, Lisa Aubuchon, was likewise disbarred, and another aide, Rachel Alexander, had her license suspended.
It seems that Sheriff Joe, the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America" because of his uncompromising attitudes toward lawbreakers, has finally overstepped his folksy outlaw bravado and has found his spurred boots sinking in some seriously deep shit. And it could end up costing the Grand Canyon State millions of dollars in fines.
Rather than allow any rackin' frackin' varmint from that lily-livered White House into his house, Joe Arpaio has decided instead to start firing back. To the media, Arpaio has issued this statement: "To the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say, 'This will not happen, not on my watch!'"
Arpaio, of course, denies the possibility of racial profiling and discrimination, and believes all of this hullabaloo is just political attacks by Obama's liberal agenda. Instead of meeting his "witch hunting" Justice Department, he's still calling for a federal investigation of his own to prove that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery.
But, like, for real. He's still claiming that Obama is a liar and/or that Hawaii is not a United State. (Another fact that I take personally; because, in that case, I'm not a U.S. citizen either. Scandal!)
The Justice Department is currently conducting 17 probes of police and sheriff departments in cities across the country. But, of course, it's this county in this state that I came from — where my friends and family and innocent families of all backgrounds live — that is setting up a fort with a giant "No Lib-rillz Allowed" sign outside of it. That's the state where the strange, mean desert people (like myself, formerly) live in fear.
Amazingly, the great state of Arizona will likely re-elect Arpaio when the time comes. As long as the legal battle with the Justice Department doesn't drain the state of too many resources, or as long as nobody hears about it with all the birth certificate smoke screening.
For the time being, I'm just going to start telling people I'm from right here in Austin. Not from Texas, of course, but from Austin. And I'm building a fort with a giant sign that says "Everyone Welcome," and you're all invited to the first meeting. You can wear whatever color of underwear you prefer.