By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
On April 4th hundreds of supporters gathered at the Painters Union Hall for an update on the Recall Effort. At the event organizers declared the campaign had passed the halfway point in signature collection needed for a recall. With the campaign low on funds and facing a legal challenge does it have the strength to be successful?
Reasons to recall Sheriff Joe Arpaio may seem obvious to the groups attending. Promise Arizona, Lucha, Mi Famila Vota, CBA, Team Awesome and other groups that have a high rate of Hispanic membership and have championed migrant rights were visible. Several stories focused on the fear from this community who have sometimes come to see Sheriff Arpaio’s posse as a danger to their family members. A school teacher spoke on Hispanic students in her district, both those legally presiding in the country and not, staying home after raids; often skin color rather than status has been suggested as the guideline for being stopped. Another speaker spoke about a female co-worker who was subject to regular beatings, being in the country without legal status she was more afraid of contacting the police than she was of regular abuse. The removal of Sheriff Joe, it would seem, may be necessary for a large section of residents to feel safe in their daily lives.
The fear of women and children over sexual assault in Maricopa County was another frequent topic. Over 400 sex crimes seem to have been neglected due to the focus on immigration matters. Also Sheriff Arpaio’s posse that carries out immigration raids and school patrols was recently reported to include a number of people arrested for domestic violence and sex crimes against minors. Some believe sex offenders are highly likely to repeat their crime, possibly one of the reasons for a tough registry system that warns residents when a sex offender moves into a neighborhood so they can watch out. With hundreds of sex crimes uninvestigated, offenders were never identified and are still on the streets-possibly finding new victims. With a crime like burglary where goods can be replaced, a migrant without papers can be deported, but for women and children violated in this manner, the damage is permanent. Some speakers declared the failure to investigate these crimes is reason enough to recall the Sheriff.
Several politicians in office and seeking election attended the event in support of recalling Sheriff Arpaio. Chad Campbell, Ruben Gallego, Andrew Sherwood, Juan Mendez, Mary Rose Wilcox, Lawrence Robinson, Andrew Sanchez, David Lujan, along with representatives of several groups seemed to be officially endorsing the campaign. Chad Campbell spoke on a recall effort taken out recently against him, saying it was a direct response by Arpaio supporters against Campbell’s support for the recall. Mary Rose Wilcox spoke on being indicted for 44 felony counts by Arpaio in retaliation for her criticism of the Sheriff; all charges were dismissed.
Sheriff Arpaio has proven a tough politician to oust from office. The Sheriff recently defeated opponents over many of the same issues in 2012 and has maintained popularity with many residents as well as supporters around the county. Several Arpaio supporters held signs across the street from the rally and Arpaio supporters have circulated a petition to support the Sheriff. Lawyers for the Sheriff have issued a legal challenge to the recall campaign, which the recall organizers find meritless.
The Recall Arpaio campaign has just under 60 days left to collect signatures with over 100,000 more needed. While funds are low, numerous donations were turned in at the event which are expected to be used to pay signature gatherers. A number of community events to raise money and collect petitions are coming up, such as a Tucson fundraiser, a rally at a local union hall on April 14th and a music and art event at Bragg’s Pie Factory on April 27th. Recall supporters seemed to leave the event confident in a victory, while critics have suggested the campaign has lost its steam. Even if the recall itself is unsuccessful, some recall supporters spoke on the successes at rallying Hispanics to register to vote.