US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Arizona: An immigration wonderland

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

When I think about events in Arizona around the immigration issue, I feel much like Alice in Wonderland when she said she found things getting "curiouser and curiouser."

Just this week Arizona caught the attention of the United Nations' Global Migration Group in far off Geneva, as they linked its SB 1070 law to France's deportation of the Roma (gypsies) and intrusion into Muslim female couture (New York Times).

Governor Janet Brewer seems likely to hold office by a large margin, having done little more than signing SB 1070 and criminalizing being in the state without papers.

The old advocate of a pathway to citizenship, Sen. John McCain, no longer will afford citizenship even to the youth brought here as infants and is insisting on more and higher walls at the border first.

And things have taken a bizarre twist for the bête-noir of the immigrant--Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In addition to investigating his treatment of inmates at his jail and the ethnic-profiling of his crime sweeps, the Justice Department has taken interest in his vendetta against some supervisors on the county board. (For the travails of Arpaio see the Arizona Republic.)

Even curiouser has been the emergence of a sidekick to Arpaio--the Pimal County Sheriff Paul Babeu--a sort of Robin to Arpaio's Batman. Both are New England transplants, and both were motivated to seek the sheriff's jobs out of political advantage, and both have a keen ear for the public cry. Pimal County includes Tucson and the desert across which many of the undocumented and much of drug traffic flow. Babeu originally opposed use of local police and his deputies to enforce immigration law until SB 1070's popularity became obvious.

A shooting of one of his deputies soon after the signing of the law was widely cited to prove the necessity of the law and brought the sheriff to public attention. Now that the feds are sniffing around the Maricopa County Sheriff's office, Arpaio is less sought out for his opinions, and Fox News has turned to Babeu as its frontline warrior against "illegals" and drug smugglers. Recently forensic experts have cast the shadow of doubt on the desert shooting (see New York Times), but Babeu continues to defend his deputy's story.

Now Babeu is being drawn into Maricopa County politics. A senior aide to Arpaio accused Chief Deputy David Hendershott, another aide who runs the day-to-day operations, of heavy-handed  intimation of deputies in the federal investigation of the sheriff's dispute with the County Board. To fend off the feds, who are very interested, Arpaio initiated his own internal investigation, asking his friend Babeu to conduct it. Many anticipate a white-wash. But others say Hendershott will be sacrificed to take federal heat off Arpaio. (See Arizona Republic.)

This will have little impact on the fate of SB 1070. The feds will continue their suit against it and their investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Gov. Brewer will be confirmed in office for little more than signing SB 1070. Sen. McCain will skate to re-election. Even Democrats are parroting the security-first line. And things get "curiouser and curiouser" in Arizona.