One of the few 2016 election victories for working families came in the defeat of then-Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio. A broad coalition of working people formed the “Bazta Arpaio” (Basta is Spanish for "enough") campaign—working tirelessly to register and turn out first-time voters. In one weekend before the election, more than 500 union volunteers knocked on over 13,000 doors. One of the volunteers, Rene Cruz, an election volunteer and Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245 organizer and steward shared his experiences on the campaign: “This is the people coming together, and this is what solidarity looks like.”
“It’s going to be a new day for Arizona,” 30-year-old realtor Dulce Matuz told ThinkProgress on election night in 2016. “We’re not just going to be known as the state that passed anti-immigrant laws, we’re going to be the state that voted against hate and xenophobia. We can finally move on and be a state that celebrates diversity.”
According to ThinkProgress, Matuz voted for the first time in November and said she was thrilled to cast her ballot against Arpaio, a man who has loomed large over Phoenix’s Latino community for nearly a quarter century.
Late last week, with the pardon of Arpaio, democracy and the efforts of Phoenix's working families was undone.
“[President] Donald Trump’s pardon of convicted criminal Joe Arpaio is an attack on immigrants writ large and shows Trump’s support for Arpaio’s illegal practices,” UNITE HERE stated. “Joe Arpaio terrorized and harassed Latino workers, regardless of immigration status, for the six terms he served as sheriff of Maricopa County. Under him, illegal racial profiling of law-abiding citizens ran rampant in the most populated county in Arizona, and he institutionalized systematic discrimination against Latino workers across Phoenix that included frequent violations of the U.S. Constitution.”
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was infamous for his harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling and misuse of funds. His so-called Tent City was the perfect symbol of everything that was wrong with his approach to law enforcement. There is no excusing his inhumane treatment nor this subversion of the rule of law.
The AFT also spoke out about why this pardon is problematic: “Ex-Sheriff Arpaio used the power of his office to harass, discriminate against and racially profile Latinos and immigrants, mistreat prisoners, unlawfully detain U.S. citizens and permanent residents, terrify and separate families, and turn routine traffic stops into a mass deportation strategy. He was convicted of violating constitutional rights, defied the courts and was voted out of office by the people of Arizona.”
The strength of working people defeated Sheriff Arpaio at the ballot box, and this same energy will be brought to the fight to ensure that hate will not divide us.
“Sheriff Joe’s raids are used by unscrupulous employers to really take advantage of the undocumented workers that come to this country. Labor has an interest in this fight because we want to make sure that workers aren’t exploited,” said Joe Diggs, an AFGE member who joined the campaign.
Union members who worked on the campaign highlighted how Arpaio’s practice encouraged low-road employers. Organizers on the election campaign were awarded the UnSung Hero Award, which is presented by the AFL-CIO to a leader or leaders who have worked to make a substantive, yet unrecognized, contribution to advancing social justice in society. This award is in honor of their bravery, which is often unknown or goes unacknowledged, but through humility and activism, their work made institutional change in society.
In honor of the hard work of union members, the labor movement will continue to be at the tip of the spear when it comes to immigration reform. Enacting meaningful immigration reform is critical to our long-term efforts to lift labor standards and empower workers, and the labor movement will continue to stand in solidarity with all working people.