“I’m looking toward being the first person in the world to put juveniles on a chain gang.”
These are the words of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, which is where Phoenix, Arizona is located. Arpaio is the controversial subject of a U.S. Justice Department investigation for civil rights abuses. He is unapologetically tough on crime and is one of the law enforcement officials who not only agrees with Arizona’s new immigration law, he is delighted to have the opportunity to implement it. He reportedly said that he was not going to wait until the day after the bill took effect, he was going to start the second after midnight.
Arpaio is not worried about overcrowded jails. He simply puts up tent cities where inmates must live in 100 degree-plus temperatures. He tells those who protest the tent cities as inhumane: “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents, have to wear full body armor, and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths.” He also refers to his tent cities as his “concentration camps.”
The chain gangs are volunteer in that they are the only way prisoners can earn special privileges. Besides literally chaining them together, dressing them in black and white striped jumpsuits and putting them out on public display, Arpaio is also fond of making the inmates wear touches of pink. The female inmates might not mind, but it is clearly a tactic designed to humiliate the male inmates. He also instituted the use of pink handcuffs, which I assume he had to have specially made.
I realize that there are people who think that almost nothing is too brutal for convicted criminals, but what about the fact that some of the inmates are not convicted, but are awaiting trial?
One of Arpaio’s innovations has been to use civilian posses to search for and detain illegal immigrants. He insists that they don’t do any racial profiling, despite the fact that they conduct sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods.
Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s the heat. Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in the people of Arizona. I didn’t even realize that the governor, Jan Brewer, signed a bill into law last September denying benefits to domestic partners of state employees. The new law, which takes effect October 1, redefines “dependent” and excludes coverage for domestic partners, including heterosexual partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and full time students over 22 who are claimed as dependents.
Interestingly enough, the University of Arizona has decided to reinstate benefits to domestic partners, using funds separate from state money, in order to remain competitive in attracting talent. According to the Arizona Daily Star, about 20 employees of the University left because of the repeal of domestic partner benefits and some job offers were rejected for the same reason.
I’ve always seen the offering of benefits to domestic partners and other dependents as a way to get more people insured in America. Without those benefits, many people will not have health insurance at all. Why shouldn’t a person be able to cover more than herself on her policy if she is willing to pay the family premium? In fact, I think insurance policies ought to cover adult children indefinitely. There’s a terrible gap in insurance coverage between 22-year-olds and those who have finally established their careers to the point where they get employee benefits.
Nor do I think people should be forced to marry just so they can share a family insurance plan. It’s not the place of the state to pry into what kind of relationship domestic partners have.
Imagine you come from an area in Mexico where hundreds of women have been murdered over the last couple of decades. Or that you live in a neighborhood where you have to worry about gunfire as you take your children to school. You want a better life for yourself and your children. You decide to emigrate to the U.S. But doing it legally could, and often does, take years. Your children are young now.
Personally, I think immigration policy in this country is, and always has been, too restrictive. We are a huge country, with plenty of room and resources to support many more people than now live here. We just don’t want to share. We don’t want to have to make accommodations. And we most certainly don’t want to take on the problems of other countries.
Well, guess what, folks? We’re going to be affected by world-wide events whether we like it or not. Take Arizona for instance. From what I’ve read, Arizona has good reason to fear the violence coming over its borders from the south. But is the answer to stop any suspicious person on the street, demand identification and possibly arrest them? All we can do is deport them. What does that solve?
We need to work harder to forge alliances with the countries we interact with so that we can aid them in their efforts to better their situations. Instead, we stick our noses in their business, stir things up and then refuse their people access to our country when they find life untenable in their own.
Take Iraq for instance. I’m against the war, and always have been. But even if I were behind it, I would still feel that we need to help those whose lives we’ve disrupted. Instead, we make it next to impossible for an Iraqi to emigrate to the U.S. Even those who have served as translators for the U.S., and are at risk from reprisals, find it difficult to find refuge in America.
There are several issues related to immigration that we need to come to terms with: