Country’s “toughest sheriff” distracts Arizona from bigger issues

All too often, voters forget local politics due to the overwhelming focus on national elections. This, however, does not diminish the importance of local elections even a bit — and voters should become more aware with the home front before heading to the polls tomorrow.

One highly debated issue this Election Day is the fate of one of the nation’s most well known sheriffs: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As good ole’ FDR once said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” Unfortunately, we separate presiding judges and sheriffs from the realm of politics, but the truth is that they are voted into office in the similar way our president is. That’s exactly how “America’s toughest sheriff” was elected in 1992, and it is the only way that he will be removed from that position.

Arpaio has Arizona, and part of the nation, fooled with a two-hand trick while he distracts voters with his antics of pink underwear and handcuffs in tent city. Sheriff Joe has incited a reign of tyranny enforcing one of the nation’s most controversial state senate bills, Senate Bill 1070.

Arpaio’s “papers please” policy has led a nightmare for Arizonans and police officers alike.

Police officers feel untrained and are unlikely to enforce SB 1070 in light of potential lawsuits. Arpaio has continually persisted the goal of “cleaning” Arizona’s streets, yet fails to realize the effect this may have on the state in other ways.

It is no question that Arizona’s economy is hurting alongside other states, with perhaps one of the worst housing industries nationwide. But as of 2004, naturalized and un-naturalized Hispanic immigrants in Arizona accounted for roughly $10.5 billion in revenue yearly.

The fact is, drug dealers plaguing our high schools and drunk drivers are spending single-day spats in tent city and go widely unnoticed while Arpaio crusades against the Hispanic population in Arizona. While generalizations based on gender, race, or population structure will always have caveats and failures, the Hispanics living in Arizona are successful and contributing parts of our society and culture that are simply pursuing the same thing my Irish ancestors were when coming to America: a better life full of promise and opportunity — the American dream.

While the results of the vote for the Maricopa County Sheriff may not be in until late Tuesday night, the effect is the same.

The Hispanic culture in Arizona is wide and strong, and will not be faltered. These are individuals who come to America with the dream of the millions who’ve have before them.

While due process and legalities set in place should be followed, they cannot be successful when people are leaving countries broken by drugs and corruption in droves. Regardless of who becomes the head of the MCSO, Arizona will continue to be the laughing stock of the country until we can learn to respect one another regardless of the color of our skin or our birth-home.


Reach the columnist at, or follow him at @calebvaroga.


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