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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Last, Best Chance" to Defend Arizona


Border Sheriffs, Right-Wing Foundation, & Republican Law Firm Join Forces
Attorney Jordan Rose and Sheriffs Dever, Babeu, and Arpaio

Larry Dever, sheriff of Cochise County, says that fight against the Justice Department’s attempt to quash Arizona’s immigration enforcement law is the “last best chance” to depoliticize immigration and border security debate. 

“Enough is enough,” says Dever, lambasting the Obama administration for leaving his county vulnerable to “hordes” of criminal aliens. There were be other chances to empower the border sheriffs and Arizona to take control of his own border and own population but “none like this one” because of “what the Department of Justice is trying to do to us.”

Dever claims that current immigration and border control practices are “absolutely criminal.”  As a result, Dever asserts that the “people of Cochise County are suffering” and “paying a huge price” in terms of the wave of crime and terror sweeping throughout this vast stretch of desert, mountains, ranches, and farmlands in Arizona’s southeastern corner.

Soon after Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the controversial SB 1070 immigration enforcement bill, Dever joined forces with another outspoken southern Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu of Pinal County, to form BorderSheriffs.com.

The latest in a series of border sheriffs organizations that have emerged as some of the most strident and ideological voices for border security – notably Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition and Southwest Border Sheriffs Coalition -- BorderSheriffs.com is focused on upholding SB 1070 and defending law enforcement from suits contending that the bill is unconstitutional and will encourage a civil rights violations and other abuses.

Unlike the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, which relies on federal and state grants, BorderSheriffs relies on support from a conservative anti-immigrant foundation in Iowa and from a powerful conservative Phoenix-based law firm, which combine to underwrite the ad hoc organization’s expenses, enable its presence in the legal fight, and help project its hard-line message on the border and immigrants.

The debate over immigration and border policy has propelled sheriffs like Dever and Babeu to the forefront of the political battles and to the media limelight. In past years, the radical voices of border security were found mostly in the vigilante groups like the Minuteman, American Border Patrol, and Civilian Defense Fund.

But border sheriffs, mostly from the rural border counties lacking major metropolitan areas, have since 2005 superseded the border vigilantes as the leading spokesman for an aggressive border crackdown.

The credibility of their badges, their cowboy hat allure, and their position as elected officers of border communities have given then great influence in Congress, state legislatures, and in the media.

Gearing up in the fight to defend SB 1070, Dever and Babeu argued that their own deputies were vulnerable to the Justice Department’s and ACLU’s legal strategies to stop the law, which they regarded as absolutely essential to protecting Arizona from criminal aliens and which their legal opponents argued preempted and interfered with federal authority over immigration enforcement. 

Arguing that they may not be able to count on their own county attorneys and even the state (given that the Arizona attorney general opposed the law), Dever and Babeu found they could count on the enthusiastic and generous support of the Legacy Foundation, which was formed by Rep. Christopher Rants, the former House Majority Leader and Republican gubernatorial candidate who was central to the state’s legislative campaign to pass anti-illegal immigrant bills.

Border fence in Naco, Cochise County/Tom Barry
The foundation says it “has a keen interest in making sure that the hands of state governments are not further tied by the Federal government as states step up to be the leader in this area.”

When announcing the creation of the new border sheriffs group, Dever and Babeu asked for donations to their legal defense fund, explaining that they weren’t confident that their respective county attorneys would mount a rigorous defense of their planned enforcement of the newly approved SB 1070.

Also playing a key role in BorderSheriffs.com is the Phoenix-based Rose Law Group, led by prominent conservative attorney Jordan Rose, which is committed to defending the two sheriffs against civil rights and other law suits that charge that SB 1070 is unconstitutional. The Rose Law Group is the lead attorney for the Phoenix Committee for Republican National Convention 2012. To mount its defense of the two sheriffs and SB 1070, the prestigious law firm hired Timothy LaSota, a member of the staunchly conservative Federalist Society who formerly served as a special deputy attorney for Maricopa County. From that legal perch, LaSota has successfully defended Arizona’s employer sanctions and human smuggling laws.

Sheriffs Sought to Intervene in Appeals Case

In early September, Larry Dever took his case for direct intervention by Cochise County in the contest between the Justice Department and the State of Arizona over whether SB 1070 could be implemented before determining its constitutionality. At a special Sept. 1 meeting of the county’s board of supervisors, Dever argued that as a border sheriff he would like to intervene in the case to ensure that the “unique position” of border residents be considered in any ruling.

Without presenting any supporting crime statistics, Dever told the county board of supervisors that the “people of Cochise County have suffered like no other in this unmitigated illegal immigration flow across our border and from the drug smuggling and all the consequences.” 

His intervention in the name of Cochise County would allow the sheriff to explain “how great their peril and how intense and unrelenting our suffering has been.”  According to Dever, “Our people are paying a huge price because of the failure of the federal government to secure the border.”

Asked by one supervisor how SB 1070, if judicially authorized, would affect law enforcement in Cochise County, Dever said there would be a minimal impact given his department’s existing commitment to ferreting out illegal immigrants.

But if the court forced “Obama to lift the suit,” the law would greatly affect Cochise County by allowing the state of Arizona to eliminate “sanctuary cities” – unnamed but presumably Tucson, Flagstaff, San Luis, and  other local governments in Arizona that have repudiated SB 1070 as a threat to public safety and civil rights in their communities.

“SB 1070 requires me to divert department resources away from serious crimes not only to conduct immigration-status inquiries, but to arrest persons who pose no threat to public safety,” wrote San Luis Police Chief Rick Flores, as part of testimony against the implementation of the harsh anti-immigrant law.

The Cochise County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Dever’s request to intervene with the assistance of the Legacy Foundation and the Rose Law Group in the appeal hearing that started November 1. But the Circuit Court ruled against the petition to intervene.

Nonetheless, Arizona’s hallowed trio of hard-line border security sheriffs – Dever, Babeu, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County – traveled to San Francisco for a media event in which they collectively viewed the appeal hearing before 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, offering their caustic comments about the DOJ’s presentation and approving observations about the performance of Arizona legal contingent.

Serving as Dever’s attorney, Brian Bergin, head of the Rose Law Group’s Litigation Department, was on hand to bolster support for the bill and to shape the advocacy campaign. “The Obama administration’s approach has sent a clear message to Sheriff Dever and the people of Arizona that we’re not going to protect you and do not try to protect yourself,” wrote Bergin.

The increasingly outspoken Dever – who along with Sheriff Babeu have become media stars in the border security debate – said, by way of Bergin, that “hordes of men, women and children have been kidnapped, trafficked, tortured, and even murdered as drug runners battle over territory in Southern Arizona.” 
No evidence was offered about these hordes of victims. 

Nor was there any acknowledgement that southern Arizona has experience steady declines in crime rates over the past several years and dramatic drops in immigrant apprehensions in the last two years.

What is more, neither the border sheriffs, the Legacy Foundation, the Republican law group, nor the Arizona Republican leadership rise above the politics of the border security battle to the heart of how deeply flawed U.S. policies – failed drug wars, drug prohibition, and policies that encourage the continued demand for the cheap labor illegal immigrants – are at the heart of the border control crisis -- not the absence of more enforcement, more walls, and more high-tech surveillance.

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