PHOENIX (CN) – Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s comments in press releases, in his book, and in his notes to deputies were used against him Tuesday as he took the stand in Federal Court. Arpaio twice denied writing book excerpts the plaintiffs’ attorney read him, including: “My parents, like all other immigrants exclusive to those from Mexico, held to certain hopes and truths.”
Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, is defending himself from a class action accusing him of using racial profiling to target Latinos for stops and arrests.
Stanley Young, plaintiffs’ attorney, questioned Arpaio about a passage in his book, “Joe’s Law: America’s Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else That Threatens America,” that claimed: “My parents, like all other immigrants exclusive to those from Mexico, held to certain hopes and truths.”
Arpaio denied writing the passage, claiming his co-author, Len Sherman, wrote much of the book.
“Is it a fair reading in the sentence of the book … that it’s saying that immigrants from other places in the world had the same hopes and truths that your parents had, but people from Mexico did not?” Young asked.
“Well, that’s not fair,” Arpaio replied. “People from Mexico have the same hopes and truths.”
Young asked Arpaio the meaning of another passage from the sheriff’s book: “A growing movement among not only Mexican nationals but also some Mexican-Americans contends that the United States stole the territory that is now California, Arizona, and Texas.”
Arpaio replied: “Once again, I didn’t write this; my co-author did.”
Attorney Young asked: “Before the publication of your book, you did look at the whole manuscript, correct?”
“It may not have been every line of the manuscript, but in general terms I looked at it,” Arpaio said.
In an April 2009 Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office press release presented as evidence, Arpaio wrote that his deputies were at risk for swine flu from their contact with illegal immigrants.
“We were concerned with the people incarcerated in our jails because of this epidemic in Mexico, and I believe that we showed that a high percentage of people in our jails came from south of Mexico City,” Arpaio said.
“You were trying to associate people from Mexico with this disease,” Young said.
“No, I was just being concerned,” Arpaio responded.
Arpaio admitted he keeps a file with copies of press articles and letters from constituents, and said he writes thank-you letters to everyone who writes him.
In one letter, dated Aug. 1, 2008, a constituent asked Arpaio to investigate McDonald’s employees: “Anyway, when I was in the McDonalds at Bell Road and Boswell, (next to the Chase Bank) this noon, there was not an employee in sight, or within hearing, who spoke English as a first language – to my dismay. From the staff at the registers to the staff back in the kitchen area, all I heard was Spanish – except when they spoke haltingly to a customer.
You might want to check this out.”
Young told Arpaio: “You forwarded this letter to Chief Sands, and you wrote a note, in your handwriting: For Our Operation. The operation you were referring to was the Sun City crime suppression operation. You sent Chief Sands this information about people speaking Spanish at a McDonald’s.”
Arpaio said he gives a copy of every letter he receives about illegal immigration to Chief Brian Sands, who determines the areas for crime suppression sweeps.
“You make suggestions to him as where to do the crime suppression sweeps,” Young said. “You are the sheriff, and if you tell Chief Sands to do something, he’ll do it.”
“I don’t micromanage, but I presume he does,” Arpaio replied.
In another letterreceived by Arpaio, dated June 19, 2008, a constituent wrote: “If you have dark skin, then you have dark skin! Unfortunately that is the look of the Mexican illegal who are here ILLEGALLY!”
Young asked Arpaio if he had ever written back to a constituent that he would not “go after other people based on their race, ethnicity, or language.”
The attorney asked: “Do you think it would be in keeping with your public responsibilities … for you to send back with your thank you letter, you know, being Mexican is not a crime. Speaking Spanish is not a crime.”
“I’m not going to give someone a history lesson,” Arpaio said. “I’m just thanking them for their concern and input.
“I like to think that the public understands what we do with our illegal immigration activities,” Arpaio added.
The court also heard testimony from Deputy Sheriff Louis DiPietro, who pulled over a truck, allegedly for speeding, during a crime suppression sweep. Manuel de Jesús Ortega Melendres, the lead plaintiff in the civil rights class action, was a passenger in the truck.
When asked about the legality of people working as day laborers, DiPietro said that in his experience, the majority are here illegally.
“You don’t have to show an ID; that type of work would be easier for a person in this country illegally to get because they don’t have the proper paperwork,” DiPietro said.
The trial resumes today (Wednesday).