Joe Arpaio and ICE's Joint Victim: Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, and Why ICE Should Not Be Partnering with MCSO's Jails

A pack of MCSO detention officers -- some of them 287(g)-trained -- walk Garcia-Martinez into a room to get her fingerprint on an ICE document.

I recently watched with great skepticism and annoyance ICE honcho John Morton's videotaped remarks to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. There, on January 25, the DHS Assistant Secretary talked of the fact that he was born in Scotland, that his mother is a legal permanent resident, and how he's staking his legacy as the top guy at ICE on detention reform.

The source of my skepticism is twofold: Morton's recent defense of ICE's continued partnership with Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the county jails here; and the revelations of recent documents and video released by the MCSO in the case of Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, a Hispanic housewife whose arm was broken while in MCSO custody last year.

For those who may not recall my reports in March concerning Garcia-Martinez's travails, she was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department on March 6, 2009, after a cop tried to issue her a warning for putting up yard sale signs in her neighborhood.

The 5-foot-something 46-year-old, who's been in the U.S. illegally for decades, had an old expired California ID on her and a matricula card from the Mexican consulate. Due to a small discrepancy between the two IDs, Phoenix PD arrested the mother of three on suspicion of forgery.

Following the injury to her arm, still in MCSO custody, you can see Garcia-Martinez cradling her left arm in a makeshift sling of her own device

A couple of days later, law dogs at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office -- not known for being pikers when it comes to pursuing the undocumented -- declined to prosecute because there was "no reasonable likelihood of conviction." As Garcia-Martinez was in MCSO custody with an immigration hold on her, there was nothing left but for her to be transferred to ICE.

Before I continue to the breaking of Garcia-Martinez's left elbow, let me address a shibboleth that John Morton spewed when he spoke to the Arizona Republic recently and defended the fact that ICE maintains a 287(g) agreement with Arpaio's jails, with 287(g)-trained MCSO detention officers and actual ICE agents nearby to help process the warm bodies.

"Sixty-nine percent of the people we receive in Maricopa County have been convicted of Level 1 and Level 2 offenses, which are serious felony offenses, drug trafficking, assaults, rape," Morton told the Rep's editorial muck-a-mucks.

But when I pressed local ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard on details regarding these stats, the info he got back to me with contradicted Morton's statement to the press. First off, not all of those Morton's talking about have been convicted. According to Picard, these stats, which cover October 1, 2009, to January 19, 2010, include both those with prior convictions and those with current charges.

Secondly, those "referred" to ICE -- in the parlance of the agency -- by the MCSO break down like this: Level One offenses, 17.3 percent; Level Two, 51.4 percent; Level Three, 9.4 percent; and the remainder, those with no criminal records, or who've not been included because of technical errors. Level One includes murder, rape, drugs, robbery, all of the really bad stuff. Level Two includes less bad stuff such as fraud, arson, embezzlement, burglary, larceny, and . . . forgery. (You can see the entire list of categories used by ICE, here.)

I double-checked with Picard and, yes, the Arizona statute under which Garcia-Martinez was originally charged and held non-bondable -- presenting a forged instrument, a class four felony in Arizona -- is included in the Level Two offenses Morton was speaking of in the Republic.

So, if Garcia-Martinez had been arrested a little later in the year, she would have been lumped into those "69 percent" of heinous criminals Morton was using to justify his deal with Sheriff Joe to maintain federal access to our county's jails.

The point being that Morton's statement was inaccurate in the extreme. Garcia-Martinez has no prior convictions. She's a small, ordinary woman who happens to be in the country sans documents. Basically, the same as Morton's mom, minus the green card.

But I'm guessing Morton's ma was never brutalized by six or seven MCSO thugs and thugettes as they attempted to get her fingerprint on ICE paperwork before being turned over to immigration. The internal investigation and video released by the MCSO last week leaves little doubt that Garcia-Martinez was injured as MCSO detention officers -- some of them 287(g)-trained gendarmes -- held her down, bruised her up, and busted her elbow. All this while attempting to obtain her fingerprint on documents she had refused to sign.

The ultimate irony is that, according to ICE spokesman Picard, a fingerprint (in lieu of a signature) is not required on the ICE paperwork in question, which simply advised Garcia-Martinez of her rights and her date before an immigration judge. (This is something both the ACLU and Garcia-Martinez's attorney pointed out last year after she was released.) Garcia-Martinez, you see, had already given her fingerprints to the MCSO during the booking process. And MCSO investigators admit as much in the MCSO report. 

According to the MCSO, on March 11, 2009, an ICE agent working in the Lower Buckeye Jail by the name of David Barnert told MCSO detention officers that even if Garcia-Martinez did not want to sign the paperwork, her fingerprint was required. Sheriff's office employees say Barnert gave them the OK to force Garcia-Martinez's fingerprint.

As you might expect, Barnert tells a different story. In an internal ICE memorandum, he claims he informed 287(g) MCSO officer A. Reese that he "felt uncomfortable fingerprinting a female subject who did not want to be fingerprinted." Barnert says he wanted Reese and Reese's fellow detention officers to wait for the next ICE agent on duty -- a fluent Spanish speaker -- to arrive and explain to Garcia-Martinez that her fingerprint would simply help to acknowledge that she had refused to sign the docs. Barnert states that he was surprised when he learned that Reese and others had forced Garcia-Martinez's fingerprint.

But what's disturbing about Barnert's statement is that he does seem to believe that a fingerprint is necessary, despite spokesman Picard's insistence that a fingerprint wasn't required, and that all an ICE or 287(g) officer needed to do was note on the forms that the individual had refused to sign. 

Similarly, the next ICE agent on duty, Frankie Martinez, explains that he obtained a fingerprint from Garcia-Martinez on one last document because, "The [MCSO] officers had forgotten to get the fingerprint and did not want to deal with [Garcia-Martinez] again."

MCSO 287(g) officer Reese admitted to investigators that, "he used a rear wristlock to control the movement of Garcia-Martinez's left arm." Furthermore, Reese related tha "he maintained the wristlock on Garcia-Martinez when she dropped to the ground and held it while the officers were attempting to fingerprint her." He contends Garcia-Martinez tried to bite some of the officers, but all of those interviewed say she was not able to touch her teeth or even her mouth to the skin of MCSO officers. (Garcia-Martinez denies she tried to bite anyone.)

After she was released, Garcia-Martinez told ICE investigators that she didn't know what the form was for. She also claimed that she told one ICE agent that approached her afterward that she'd been hurt by the MCSO officers. Additionally, she maintained that an ICE officer threatened her with being jumped again if she did not give her fingerprint to a form that was omitted. So she dutifully complied.

Throughout the MCSO report, officers state that Garcia-Martinez never told them she was injured, as if that absolves them of breaking her arm in the first place. However, silent security video released by the MCSO shows Garcia-Martinez holding her left arm in her sweater as if it were a makeshift sling. (Even the MCSO's investigator makes note of this in his report.)

Though there is no video from the room where Garcia-Martinez was force-fingerprinted by the MCSO, the video provided does show her being taken to the fingerprint room, surrounded by a pack of MCSO.

Later, they lead her from the room and place her in a holding cell. Following this, several MCSO and at least one ICE agent (perhaps Martinez) enter her cell and score another fingerprint. Then Garcia-Martinez is shuttled from cell to cell, holding her injured left arm as if in a sling.

After Garcia-Martinez is transferred to ICE custody, ICE learns of her injuries through her lawyer. (Her lawyer found out from Garcia-Martinez's daughter, who learned of her mom's injuries from a cell mate who, once released, contacted the daughter.) ICE photographed each of Garcia-Martinez's bruises on her leg, arms and back. They took her to St. Joseph's Hospital, where Garcia-Martinez's arm was put in a cast after she was examined by physicians there. Ultimately, ICE released Garcia-Martinez on her own recognizance.

Garcia-Martinez is being represented in pending civil litigation by Phoenix attorney Danny Ortega, who has filed a notice of claim against Maricopa County. Personally, I hope Garcia-Martinez gets every penny coming to her for the pain and suffering she's endured at the hands of federally trained MCSO gendarmes. The MCSO's investigators concluded that Garcia-Martinez's claims were "unfounded," though the evidence in the MCSO's own report belies this conclusion.

Last year, ICE suspended Sheriff Arpaio's 287(g) street authority, but allowed him to keep 287(g) in his vast incarceration complex, where some 60 287(g)-trained MCSO officers continue to enforce federal immigration law. ICE agents work out of the jails as well, despite the numerous, documented human rights abuses therein. This incident is hardly an orphan, or an only child. Both ICE and the MCSO bear blame, and there other cases of mothers with busted jaws, and pregnant women shackled, not to mention the corpses coughed forth from Joe Arpaio's facilities with disturbing regularity.

So pardon my peevishness at John Morton's contention that he's serious about detention reform for ICE's charges. Unless Morton ends the 287(g) jails agreement with Arpaio immediately, his claims of wanting to reform the system are as hollow and as worthless as an empty Mason jar. As for his tales about his green-card holding parental unit, spare me. Until Morton walks the talk, he's just another bureaucrat, one with the blood and broken bones of immigrants beneath his fingernails.

Note: Regarding the video provided by the MCSO, as the security software involved does not readily convert to other applications, we were forced to film it from a computer screen, then upload it to vimeo. (Thanks to my colleague Jonathan McNamara for his help with the process.) This explains the shaky camera. The other two videos we uploaded are on New Times' vimeo site, but don't show much. There's video of Garcia-Martinez being released from another cell, and video of MCSO officers and what appears to be an ICE agent approaching a cell to get another fingerprint. This, after her arm has been broken. 



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