Arpaio Plans to Jail Arizona Immigrants in ‘Tent City’


Infamous Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County’s law-enforcement overlord, is planning to jail illegal immigrants convicted under the state’s new immigration law in his notorious “Tent City”—an outpost of Army surplus tents in the desert that’s been heavily criticized by immigration and human rights advocates. According to The Arizona Republic, Arpaio has declared that he has room for at least 1,000 new prisoners in the tents in the desert, where summer temperatures routinely hit the triple digits. Some Arizona officials have described the tents as a cost-saving measure, as they’ve served as an extension of overcrowded prisons that have housed a wide range of convicted criminals, in addition to immigrants. But Arpaio has made it clear that the “Tent City” is part of his larger plan to make life for prisoners humiliating and unbearable.

“I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant,” Arpaio once said of his tactics, which have also included chain gangs (for men and women), public parades in pink underwear (for men only), and massive illegal-immigration sweeps. Arpaio’s tactics have earned him the nickname “Hitler” among Tent City inmates, according to The New Yorker. They’ve also prompted thousands of lawsuits against “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” as well as a federal investigation into his immigration sweeps. “Sheriff Arpaio has absolute contempt for the dignity of the people in his custody and demonstrates this by treating people like circus animals,” the ACLU wrote on its blog.

And with the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, Arpaio stands no longer alone in his extreme approach to law enforcement. A reputed Neo-Nazi minuteman is now leading an armed militia in the Arizona desert to patrol against “narco-terrorists” and troll for illegal immigrants crossing the border. With the Arizona immigration law set to go into effect July 29—less than two weeks from now—such developments are only the beginning. Let the circus begin.

WE DON'T KNOW

What's going to happen next as the headlines grow crazier and more disconcerting by the day. But we do know the job of an independent, unrelenting press is more important than ever—and the ongoing commitment of MoJo readers to fight for a democracy where facts matter and all can participate is absolutely vital.

If you feel the urgency deep in your bones like we do, please consider signing up as a monthly donor during our fall pledge drive to support Mother Jones' fair and fearless reporting for the long haul (or make a one-time gift if that works better for you). The headlines may fade, but the need to investigate the powerful never will.

  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.