Since Arizona’s SB 1070 was signed into law, we’ve covered what it means, where it comes from, and where it appears to be headed. At the center of the whole mess is Maicopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the bill’s most vociferous supporters who’s been carrying out his own brand of anti-immigrant lawlessness for years. Over at Mother Jones, Aura Bogado digs deeper into how the sheriff was taking the law into his own hands long before Gov. Jan Brewer got involved:
The man who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” has long had a knack for drawing media attention–reviving chain gangs (PDF), for instance, and humiliating county inmates by forcing them to don pink underwear (PDF). He grew obsessed with illegal immigration in 2005, when the state’s “coyote statute” took effect, making it a felony to smuggle people for profit anywhere in Arizona. As interpreted by then-county prosecutor Andrew Thomas, the law freed sheriff’s deputies to round up undocumented immigrants–after all, hadn’t these people conspired to smuggle themselves into Arizona? So Arpaio began sending out posses of citizens and lawmen to conduct immigration sweeps. “I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico,” he told the Washington Times. “I’ll give them a free ride to my jail.”
Bogado spent five months reporting on how Arpaio’s tactics have impacted the everyday lives of anyone who looks even remotely brown in the area, sometimes with deadly consequences.