Arizona, One Year Later
Reverend Peter Morales is the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Friday, July 29, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
A year ago today, our Unitarian Universalist principle on the inherent worth and dignity of all people led me to Phoenix to participate in a National Day of Non-Compliance in protest of SB 1070. Along with others, I chose to engage in an act of civil disobedience by blocking the entrance to the Maricopa County jail. I sought to impede — if only for one day — Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s dehumanization of migrants, his raids on barrios, and his campaign of terror. After fourteen hours in jail, I was able to leave freely and return to my family. Others in Maricopa County jail were less fortunate.
Today, I am one of six people standing trial in Phoenix for my actions of civil disobedience. I view this as an opportunity to again shine a light on the growing human rights crisis in Arizona. In addition to raising these issues in the press, I have written a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder urging that DHS immediately sever Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s access to immigration programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities, and that the Department of Justice conclude its ongoing investigation into abuses by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and bring Sheriff Arpaio to justice.
Will you join me in asking these leaders to stop the abuse and injustice that is rampant in Maricopa County?
Following my arrest in 2010, I led an effort to bring together seven other denominations and a dozen faith-based organizations in signing a letter to President Obama urging an end to policies like the frightening “Secure Communities” program that “Arizonify” local law police by requiring them to enforce unjust federal immigration laws. These programs criminalize immigrant communities and tear apart families. Our letter was delivered in February to the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, Secretary Janet Napolitano has taken no action in response.
Similarly, I am thankful that the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Sheriff Arpaio’s actions, and I am hopeful that upon completion, the Sheriff will be held accountable for his crimes. But justice delayed is justice denied. The Department of Justice investigation has been a slow process. I am not an investigator or a civil rights attorney. I appreciate that finding evidence requires due process. But as a minister who cares deeply about the suffering of other people — people whose freedom exists at the whim of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who has shown himself to thrive on cruelty — I feel compelled to ask Attorney General Holder to bring Sheriff Arpaio to justice swiftly.
There are approximately 8,000 inmates in Sheriff Arpaio’s jail cells, many of whom have been victims of policies that have been deemed unconstitutional. This past year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of detainees by housing them in overcrowded conditions, at “dangerously high temperatures,” and feeding them “overripe, moldy, and generally inedible” food. Sadly, these are just the most obvious of Arpaio’s abuses of basic human rights.
Please join me in speaking out against these human rights abuses.
There is a domestic human rights crisis in Arizona. I have seen it firsthand, and I am compelled to act. I will continue to shine a light on the human rights crisis that is taking place. Please join me in standing with immigrant communities in defense of their and our barrios because we cannot be neutral. We are called. We are all Arizona.