Mur­derer in Trump video was re­leased un­der Ar­paio

The State (Sunday) - - News - BY JACQUES BIL­LEAUD

A po­lit­i­cal ad from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that shows a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant brag­ging about killing po­lice of­fi­cers has put the spot­light back on noted im­mi­gra­tion hard-liner Joe Ar­paio, who de­tained and re­leased the man in the video years ago.

The for­mer six-term sher­iff of metro Phoenix says he’s be­ing un­fairly blamed for re­leas­ing the im­mi­grant de­picted in the video that has stoked im­mi­gra­tion anx­i­eties in the days lead­ing up to the midterm elec­tions.

The ad cen­ters on Luis Bra­ca­montes, who was con­victed of mur­der in the 2014 shoot­ing deaths of two sher­iff’s deputies in Cal­i­for­nia while he was in the United States il­le­gally. Trump blames Democrats for weak laws that al­lowed the man to keep com­ing across the border, even though he was de­ported dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tions of Bill Clin­ton and George W. Bush.

Bra­ca­montes was also in­car­cer­ated four times in jails run by Ar­paio, a Repub­li­can who is known for his crack­downs on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and be­ing the first per­son to re­ceive a par­don from Trump. He cam­paigned for Trump on sev­eral oc­ca­sions dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign but lost his bid for a sev­enth term in 2016 amid a swirl of le­gal trou­bles.

Ar­paio said Fri­day that he hasn’t seen the ad and didn’t re­mem­ber the de­tails of the cases.

But he said his jail of­fi­cers likely acted prop­erly by con­tact­ing fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties to pick up Bra­ca­montes, be­cause that was the pro­ce­dure in the jails e when in­mates com­pleted their sen­tences. He pinned the blame on fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties for drop­ping the ball.

“I would never re­lease an il­le­gal,” Ar­paio said. “I think my rep­u­ta­tion has shown that for many, many, many years.”

Bra­ca­montes used sev­eral aliases, mak­ing it hard to pin­point his im­mi­gra­tion record. Cal­i­for­nia au­thor­i­ties say Bra­ca­montes was de­ported four times be­fore he killed Sacra­mento County sher­iff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sher­iff’s De­tec­tive Michael Davis Jr.

Bra­ca­montes was de­ported at least once af­ter do­ing time in Ar­paio’s jails in drug cases from 1996 through 2001, ac­cord­ing to court records in Ari­zona.

Ar­paio said at that time, his of­fice had a sys­tem of no­ti­fy­ing fed­eral au­thor­i­ties about im­mi­grants in the jail through a tele­type sys­tem.

Both Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans have de­nounced the ad, which links Bra­ca­montes’ crimes to a car­a­van of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants mov­ing through Mex­ico, as a racist cam­paign tac­tic.

Bra­ca­montes was de­ported in 1997, when Clin­ton was in of­fice, ac­cord­ing to court records in Ari­zona. He was ar­rested for mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion in March 2001. It’s un­clear when he re­turned to the United States il­le­gally be­fore that ar­rest.

Com­par­isons have been drawn be­tween the ad and the in­fa­mous “Wil­lie Hor­ton” com­mer­cial in the 1988 pres­i­den­tial race about a black man who raped a wo­man while out of prison on a week­end fur­lough.

A news re­lease is­sued by Ar­paio’s of­fice in the days af­ter the at­tack on the Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cers is murky on say­ing whether his of­fice or fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties had re­leased Bra­ca­montes.

Ar­paio said he’s be­ing un­fairly blamed for re­leas­ing an im­mi­grant back into the com­mu­nity who nearly 13 years later would kill po­lice of­fi­cers. He said his jail of­fi­cers did as much as they could over the years to no­tify fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.

Ar­paio, whose con­tempt of court con­vic­tion for dis­obey­ing a court or­der in an im­mi­gra­tion case was par­doned by Trump, said he’s a con­ve­nient tar­get for peo­ple look­ing to crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent.

“Why am I the bad guy?” Ar­paio asked. “You know why? My name.”

Joe Ar­paio

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