Sheriff takes cues from Arapio

by: Maayan Schechter

Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arapio now has a friend in the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department as racial profiling becomes the new fad to end illegal immigration.

Sheriff Terry Johnson of Alamance County was accused by the Department of Justice of encouraging racial profiling, making false arrests and traffic stops, as well as calling Spanish-speaking people “taco eaters.” According to a two-year report by the DOJ, Johnson and his deputies violated the constitutional rights of many legal Hispanic and Spanish-speaking residents by stopping and arresting those who had broken no law.

Just like Arizona, Alamance County deputies are allegedly racially profiling anyone who looks Hispanic. Alamance County, a mere hour outside of Raleigh, is only home to 125,000 residents, but has a growing Hispanic population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Census, the number of Hispanics in Alamance County has increased in the last 10 years. Overall, North Carolina ranks 11th in Hispanic population.

According to the 11-page report issued Sept. 18 by the Justice Department, Johnson and his deputies target Hispanics between four and 10 times more than non-Hispanic drivers. Some were pulled over for minor traffic violations, while others who are not Hispanic were pulled over for the same offense, but only faced a minor citation.

Sheriff Johnson participated in a press conference on Sept. 18 in Graham, arguing his office has never discriminated against any “Spanish- speaking persons” and the Obama administration was to blame, in the same way that a young child who spilled juice on the couch might blame his sister or dog for the mess. After interviewing more than 125 people, the report found Sheriff Johnson’s anti-Hispanic pattern was only becoming more frequent.

Johnson allegedly motivated his staff to use racially inappropriate epithets and was quoted in a 2007 local newspaper article saying, “Their (Latinos) values are a lot different their morals than what we have here.” He also said, “In Mexico, there’s nothing wrong with having sex with a 12- or 13-year-old girl.” Clearly, Sheriff Johnson is ill informed surrounding the number of rape and molestation cases involving adults and children in the United States, or the news reports about teachers having relationships with their students, even better, preachers having relations with young boys.

Of course a spokesman for the Alamance Sheriff later backtracked and said the comments were actually made in the context of cracking down on underage prostitution, the Associated Press reported.

Recently, the situation became rather complex because of an agreement between federal immigration and customs enforcement authorities and the county sheriff’s office. The agreement gives deputies more power to identify and arrest illegal immigrants for possible deportation back to their country of origin. After the Justice Department’s findings, ICE decided to end the agreement, but clearly the Alamance Sheriff is still holding on to the relationship.

However, according to a July 2012 traffic stop and citation report published on the Almance County Sheriff’s website, 39 Hispanic male and female  drivers received traffic citations, while 114 white male and female drivers received citations.  On average in June, drivers who were both white and non-Hispanic received more traffic citations than those of Hispanic descent. However, there is no information on the website as to how severe the traffic violations were between races or sexes.

Whether or not Hispanics are receiving fewer traffic citations than others does not seem to be the main issue to the DOJ. The federal government seems to have a clear and assertive decision that the Alamance Sheriff’s Department is in violation of others’ constitutional rights. In a CNN report on the alleged issue, many posted comments after the online article held the sheriff’s department had every right to pull someone over based on assumption someone could or could not be illegal. Commenter “Tsimbi” wrote “4justice – The Constitution is in place for American citizens, not illegal aliens.”

The main issue within this case is the ongoing harassment of Hispanic-U.S. citizens and Hispanics in the country legally with green cards or other documents.

While Sheriff Johnson may feel what his department is doing is within the law, assuming anyone within the Hispanic race is illegal will only destroy the trust and communication between the Latino community and the Alamance Sheriff’s Department.

President Obama said in a Univision interview that one of his biggest mistakes in his first term of presidency was the failure to implement immigration reform. What really needs to be reformed is America’s definition of the term “American.”

 

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