Sicilia Comes Face-to-Face with the Sheriff Labeled As Racist and Demands that He “Be More Human”
Javier Sicilia confronted Sheriff Joe Arpaio Photo: Notimex
From the Editors of La Jornada
Phoenix, Arizona, August 16, 2012. In an unpublished meeting, the leader of the Caravan for Peace, Javier Sicilia, asked Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has distinguished himself by impelling actions to discriminate against Mexican and Latin American immigrants, “to be more humane” with undocumented detainees within his jurisdiction.
In the meeting that lasted one hour, Sicilia proposed, according to Caravan members that were present, that he control the sale of weapons of extermination, to which the US sheriff replied: “You control the flow of drugs.”
At the end of the meeting, Arpaio proposed to the Mexican poet that when the Caravan through the Unites States ends, he should return to dialogue, but “alone.”
The interview, which was held in the sheriff’s offices, had a complicated start when Arpaio conditioned the celebration of the meeting on the activist Carlos García, the local leader of the El Puente organization, leaving the offices. Other activists from US organizations that support the cause of the Movement for Peace, stayed in the place.
“We did not come at war but in peace, to tell you that you have 50 per cent of the responsibility for the war in Mexico.” Sicilia maintained the tone of his talk and surprised his interlocutor: “I ask you if treating immigrants like dogs is a correct policy.”
The sheriff did not become ruffled and said: “I do not administer the jails.”
Afterwards, there was an exchange of opinions between Sicilia and Arpaio. The former recognized that the Mexican government is corrupt, that they imposed a war against drugs, and added that the theme of narcotics is not a national security issue. “You want to avoid consumption, but you have a responsibility with 23 million addicts.”
The sheriff answered that the responsibility for the drug problem is with the producer countries and added that he doesn’t like to offer opinions about the governments of other countries; aside from the responsibility of complying with the law.
Sicilia insisted on questioning Arpaio about how being Catholic he could discriminate against the immigrants, to which the sheriff answered that he didn’t mix religion with policy, and that his beliefs have nothing to do with immigration or the law.
At the end, Sicilia invited him to Mexico, after urging him to have more humane and dignified conditions for the immigrants, “it would be a gesture of humanity that we would take with us;” Arpaio rejected the gesture upon asserting that drug cartels put a price on his head.
Afterwards, members of the Caravan for Peace visited the prison camp known as Tent City, “to denounce the criminalization and inhuman treatment that the undocumented and persons that consume drugs receive.”
Local police installed the camp in 1993 to “solve” overpopulation in the prisons. At the place, members of the Caravan and of local organizations locales protective of immigrant rights remembered that Arpaio is subject to investigation, among other things, for having handcuffed an undocumented Mexican woman in full labor of childbirth and of separating her from her baby.
In this place, known as “Tent City”, Arpaio dresses the prisoners with red shorts y scuffs and feeds them one sandwich a day, and it is alleged that he spends more on feeding his dogs than his detainees, they denounced.
At the Phoenix Civic Center, the pacifist movement that the Mexican poet heads gave voice to relatives of the victims of violence. More than 40 of them gave their testimony there.
This has been the occasion, ever since the Caravan started last Sunday, in which a greater possibility has been presented for the victims of the violence in Mexico due to the war against drugs to speak.
Later the Caravan headed for Tucson, where Sicilia is expected to give a speech that he prepared before starting his tour through 27 US cities, to conclude in Washington next September 12.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
English Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, August 17, 2012