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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: It isn’t so; ask Arizona’s Sheriff Joe

After Monday’s rowdy Spokane City Council meeting, Jackie Murray, who filed the initiative to repeal the illegal immigration “sanctuary” ordinance, said, “I’m a refugee from California. I’ve already lived through this.”

Well, I’m from Arizona, so I lived through some of this, too.

The favorite lawman of anti-immigration forces is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He was elected sheriff in 1992 and has been on the job ever since. To distinguish himself from other lawmen, he immediately began grandstanding. Sheriff Joe loves to exploit the unpopularity of criminals by dreaming up ways to humiliate them. Pink underwear, green bologna and moldy bread are just some of his favorite hits.

Speaking of hits, he even started a radio station at the jail, which was modestly named KJOE. It features patriotic and classical music, along with the “wholesome” pop standards from Arpaio’s era – and, no, that doesn’t include “Jailhouse Rock.” He says the station was his way to give back after taking away girlie magazines, most TV viewing, transistor radios and humane meals.

The sheriff’s cruelest creation was “Tent City,” which he pitched near the jail. During the summer, inmates broil in temperatures that regularly exceed 110 degrees. He calls it his “concentration camp,” because Nazi allusions are always fun.

The sheriff brags about doing thousands of interviews and being featured in international media. He’s a regular on Twitter, with more than 60,000 followers. One Thanksgiving, he tweeted the jail menu, bragging that it only cost the taxpayers 56 cents per inmate. Some of the inmates who are punished and humiliated are pre-trial detainees, meaning they’ve yet to be convicted. Innocent until proven guilty? That’s for wussies, when you’re the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America.”

As the illegal immigration issued heated up, Arpaio decided to take charge. It was beyond his legal reach, but the issue was an irresistible source of popularity. He launched immigration sweeps in 2008, where deputies would round up people suspected of using fake identification. The raids were a pretext to arrest illegal immigrants.

Courts have found Arpaio guilty of many civil rights violations, including racial profiling. His showboating defiance has cost Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars. Last month, he finally agreed to disband his immigration raid units. Monday, a federal judge issued another injunction should he ever want to revive them.

Sheriff Joe fought the law, and the law won. Arizona also fought the law, and, for the most part, it lost, too.

What anti-immigration forces who want to repeal the Spokane ordinance don’t seem to understand is that this battle already has been waged. If they succeed in repealing the ordinance, the Spokane Police Department still won’t enforce immigration law. It’s a federal matter. If you don’t like the law, then petition the proper authorities.

It isn’t City Hall.

BORDER FOLLY. The use of Predator B drones along the Mexican border was hammered in an internal report that showed the aircraft costs $12,225 an hour to operate and has proven to be ineffective.

Drones were launched 10 years ago as a purported cost-effective method for capturing people entering the country illegally. But the Inspector General’s audit found that in 2013 they led to less than 2 percent of all apprehensions near Tucson and along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The news comes as the feds, at the behest of Congress, prepare a $443 million expansion of the drone program.

The country will never reach the absurd level of border security House Republicans demand before they will consider immigration reform. And I suspect they’re willing to spend a helluva lot more to avoid the day of reckoning.

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