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UUA Joins with Religious and Secular Groups to Demand End to Arizona Human Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As part of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) ongoing work for immigration rights and social justice, on Monday, December 12, 2011, the UUA delivered a letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Eric Holder of the U.S. Department of Justice. Co-signed by 14 religious and secular organizations, the letter demands government investigation into the human rights abuses carried out by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his staff. Below is the full text of the letter.

Dear Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder,

We write to you as leaders in fourteen religious denominations and organizations across the United States, urging immediate action to quell the growing human rights crisis in Arizona.   

We request that the Department of Homeland Security immediately sever Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's access to all ICE ACCESS programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities. We also request that the Department of Justice conclude its ongoing investigation into abuses by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and bring Sheriff Arpaio to justice.

In July of 2010, on the day that SB 1070 went into effect, people of faith from all over the country came to Phoenix to engage in non-violent civil disobedience; we were called by a higher authority to bear witness against legal policies that sanction and promote the degradation of human beings. The first signatory on this letter, Rev. Peter Morales of the Unitarian Universalist Association, was one of those arrested in front of the Maricopa County jail. In blocking the entrance of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail, those arrested sought to impede - if only for one day - the Sheriff’s dehumanization of migrants, his raids on barrios, and his campaign of terror.

We are thankful that the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Sheriff Arpaio’s actions and are hopeful that, upon completion, the Sheriff will be held accountable for his crimes. However, the Department of Justice investigation has been an excruciatingly slow process, and people are suffering all the while.  These are people whose freedom and safety exist at the whim of a man who has openly shown himself to thrive on cruelty:

  • Arpaio has said that he thinks it is an “honor” to be called “KKK” and has referred to his own tent city as a “concentration camp”
  • Arpaio raided a man's house with a tank, terrorizing the family and neighborhood for the entertainment of a reality TV audience
  • Arpaio has had to settle racial profiling suits and was forced to fire those working for him for their intimidation and corruption.
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that Arpaio has repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of detainees by housing them in overcrowded conditions at "dangerously high temperatures," and feeding them "overripe, moldy, and generally inedible" food.

There are approximately 8,000 inmates in Maricopa County's jail cells, many of whom have been victims of policies that have been deemed unconstitutional. Yet Sheriff Arpaio is not only still in office today; he also continues to be empowered by the Department of Homeland Security. All the while, as you know, he has defied numerous federal investigations into his conduct.

We ask you, Attorney General Holder, to please bring Sherriff Arpaio to justice swiftly. Justice delayed is justice denied.

We ask you, Secretary Napolitano, to immediately cut Sheriff Arpaio’s access to all ICE ACCESS programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g).

Every day we fail to stop dehumanization, we put our own humanity at risk. Whether we gaze upon Arizona and become desensitized to human suffering or we take action to preserve human dignity is not just a test for our federal government, it is a test for us all. Simply put, our nation stands at a moral crossroads, and we will be judged by future generations. Is your conscience comfortable with what history will say? We urge you to end the human rights abuses in Maricopa County now.

Todos somos Arizona. We are all Arizona.

In faith,

Rev. Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director, Disciples Justice Action Network

Dianne Aid, TSSF
President of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice

Rev. Luis Cortes,
President and CEO, Esperanza USA

Patrick Carolan
Director, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Dennis Jacobsen
Director, Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus

Kim Bobo
Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

Alejandro J. Beutel
Government and Policy Analyst, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Simone Campbell
Executive Director, NETWORK - A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Laurie Anderson
Board of Directors, National New Sanctuary Movement

Juan Pablo Chavez,
Immigration Task Force, PICO National Network

Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM
Sr. Eileen Campbell, RSM
Sr. Anne Curtis, RSM
Sr. Deborah Troillett, RSM
Sr. Mary Pat Garvin, RSM
Leadership Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ

Bill Mefford
Director, Civil and Human Rights, United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

The UUA is a faith community of more than 1,000 congregations that bring to the world a vision of religious freedom, tolerance, and social justice. For more information, please visit our online press room.

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Last updated on Friday, January 20, 2012.

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