Sheriff Joe Retaliates Against Mexican Consul General; Demands Mexico Reimburse County for Prisoners

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Two weeks ago, Mexican Consul General Carlos Flores Vizcarra fired off a letter to Maricopa County, complaining about Sheriff Joe Arpaio's televised forced march of illegal immigrant inmates -- and their subsequent segregation in Tent City.

Today, Arpaio returned fire, sending a letter to Vizcarra saying that he has stripped Mexican officials of the right to visit inmates at his jails at any hour of the day or night. (Arpaio called it a "most favored nation status" in the county jails.)

"This practice will now be suspended and your employees will be treated like any other governmental entity visiting their jailed citizenry," he huffed.

Second, in an obvious attempt to play to the sentiments of Arizona voters, Arpaio also announced that he will seek reimbursement from the Mexican government for the cost of incarcerating its citizens.

Yeah, they're sure to pay right up on that bill...

The letter, which Arpaio proudly posted on his Web site, is likely a gambit on Arpaio's part to change the subject on a bad news day. Earlier today, the Justice Department sent a letter to Arpaio, announcing that he's being investigated for civil rights violations. And how better to fire up the base than remind Arizona that we have to foot the bill for every Mexican caught here committing a crime (and, these days, even those with busted taillights, thanks to Joe). 

Indeed, we checked in with the sheriff's flack, Lisa Allen, soon after the letter from Vizcarra two weeks ago, and she suggested that the MCSO would not be making an official response to the consul general. Vizcarra's letter, after all, was sent to the Board of Supervisors, not Arpaio. 

And the sheriff's response, while pointed, seems woefully uninformed about the back story on Vizcarra's letter. As we first reported, the consul general wrote his letter to the sheriff at the behest of a committee of the Mexican Senate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for North America.

As we reported at the time, that committee passed a four-part proposal last month regarding the "maltreatment of detained immigrants in Maricopa County," according to an (unofficial) translation that New Times commissioned of the committee hearing's official  transcript.

According to our translation, the committee agreed to take the following actions:

* A "categorical" denouncement of the chaining of undocumented Mexican immigrants, as in the march to Tent City, calling it a "cruel and humiliating action ... against the dignity and the elemental rights of our fellow citizens." 

* An exhortation to the Mexican consulate to express its views to the Arizona government, and particularly that of Maricopa County, condemning the practices and asking that future transfers of prisoners adhere to "international norms."

* A request that the Mexican executive branch take measures and design a strategy to protect the rights of Mexicans, "particularly in those cities of the United States where they promote openly racist legislation and behaviors."

* The creation of a special commission to deal with the situation of Mexican citizens detained in the U.S. jail system.

Yet in his letter to Vizcarra today, Arpaio seems confused by the consul general's strong words against him.

"[Y]our letter was penned only hours after you and I had just shared a cordial meal," Arpaio wrote. "...This leads me to believe you had some hidden political motive for writing this complaint letter and that you are simply echoing the false allegations routinely made by critics of my illegal immigration policies and programs."

It's not exactly a hidden motive, Sheriff -- the consul general was directed to do so by a Senate commitee!

You can check out the entire letter here. Just don't confuse it for anything other than the publicity ploy that it is. And don't be at all surprised if Mexico never makes good on its upcoming "bill" from Arpaio's office.

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