Indicting Sheriff Arpaio

Ideas and Issues Immigration Reform Organizing

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and prisonersShreveport Meeting Friday night with immigration reform organizers after their long day of meetings in New Orleans on the 2nd day of the “Turning the Tide” conference it was clear that spirits were good among the organizers, despite the fact that prospects for comprehensive reform seem to have sunk to new lows.  These were hard cases.  No one believed that the Democrats would keep control of Congress.  Loss of the House of Representatives was seen as a foregone conclusion.  Increasingly the gallows humor of immigration was going to become:  “if it weren’t for bad changes, we won’t see any changes at all!”

There is a clearly a strategic split among the reformers that has existed in a dialectic for some time, but is increasingly sharpening in more stark relief between organizers who believe that the chance has to come from local projects and grassroots organizing and resistance versus the policy-lobbyist wonks with the greater resources still spinning the stories of a immaculate change conception with the Beltway.  This division is spoken of in quiet tones behind the scenes but is constantly part of the debate.  With more than 150 organizers in New Orleans the absence of some of the folks from the national campaign “table” was shocking to me, even if there presence had been no more than solidarity.

I hope I’m not grabbing at straws but the best news I heard in my conversations was the increasing confidence that the days of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reign of terror in Maricopa County, Arizona are numbered.  I heard rumors repeated from Justice Department sources, which has now sued Arpaio for federal violations in recent weeks, is that he will be indicted after the mid-term elections are over in November.  He will be a martyr to the whack right, but given the line drawn in the sand for years by so many in Arizona; this will be a significant victory.  I wish I could report more optimism from organizers on the chances of Attorney General Godard replacing Governor Jan “Brain Freeze” Brewer, but most just shrugged that there was no contest still.  I don’t know.

Good energy and deepening conviction will have to be what we go on now, since the numbers and politics seem aligned increasingly against us.