IN PHOENIX, SHERIFF SETS STAGE FOR VIOLENT CONFRONTATION WITH ILLEGALS
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla.. May 5, 2006 -- Setting the stage for a violent confrontation as early as today's Cinco de Mayo's celebration, controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix says his 100-man volunteer "posse" will fan out over the weekend and start arresting illegal immigrants.
Arpaio has made a national figure of himself by handing out pink underwear to county prisoners and forcing them to spend their jail time in outdoors tents in 110-degree heat.
The plan follows vast demonstrations by more than 3 million immmigrants and their supporters over the past month and stepped-up rhetoric and vigilante action against what many Arizonans consider an "invasion" of the United States.
If violence breaks out at the Cinco de Mayo celebration, which typically involves heavy drinking, efforts by organizations like the Minutemen and individuals like CNN's Lou Dobbs to call attention to America's undocumented population will have borne bitter fruit.
The ostensible reason for the war against illegal aliens is national security following the Al Qaeda strikes of Sept. 11, 2001. But none of the hijackers came over the Mexican border; all entered the country with legal documents, arriving by air from Europe and the Middle East.
The porosity of the Mexican-American border, however, lent itself to the calls for action against illegal immigration that had been slowly gathering momentum for years. When that movement connected with the national security issue generated by 9/11, the combined concerns got national attention.
Dobbs, a former financial reporter for CNN, made "broken borders" a key theme of his one-hour 6 p.m. ET news-talk show on CNN, and for several years has railed nightly against the nation's estimated 12 to 20 million undocumented immigrants while saying he is supportive of legal immigration. Recently, in reporting reminiscent of Hitler's pogrom against the Jews, he focused on "diseases" brought into the United States by undocumented immigrants.
Urban violence on a huge scale is the unwritten premise of the vast demonstrations that have come to Phoenix and other cities in the past month, but authorities until now have been careful not to provoke confrontations. While Latino culture is generally complacent, threats to family and work are taken very seriously.
In Phoenix, where gun control laws are weak, thousands of Latino and black gang members are well-armed, according to "Policing Gangs In America" by Charles Katz and Vincent Webb, a Cambridge University Press study of Phoenix-area gang activity, and Hispanic gang members outnumber black gangsters by six to one.
Typically, it is gang members who initiate civil disturbances such as rock and bottle-throwing, small arsons and random shooting, and those disturbances in turn often begin with an arrest.
In choosing to break with the traditional stance of urban police forces relative to illegal immigration, which is to deliberately avoid status-related arrests, Arpaio risks inflaming the 450,000-plus Latino community in Phoenix. Permitting volunteers to conduct arrests of illegals, a task usually reserved to Border Patrol and Federal immigration authorities acting under Federal law, is a dangerous way to seek publicity.
If violence does occur, it could well lend a boost to the "national security" element in American life that warns of an all-out civil war over immigration. Wrote one blogger, James Hall of ImpeachMcCain.com in the online American Daily, "A campaign for legitimate defense against the real threat to national security is in order. In all likelihood a true civil war is waxing and may well be necessary to survive as a meaningful nation." We wonder if Sheriff Joe Arpaio knows he is feeding Hall's all-consuming, utterly destructive fire.
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief Joe Shea is an occasional visitor and former resident of the Phoenix area.