On Dec. 4, 2009, my wife, Eva, and I were driving in our truck in Phoenix when a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy drove up alongside us in a police cruiser. The deputy stared at us both, then switched his lights on and pulled us over. We hadn’t been doing anything wrong, and at first, when he turned his lights on, we thought he was speeding off to respond to a call.
After a few minutes, he still hadn’t come over to our truck, so we both stepped out to see what was happening. The deputy got out of his car and yelled at us, furious. He demanded my driver’s license and Eva’s, even though she wasn’t driving. And he refused to answer my questions about why he’d pulled me over.
I had my suspicions, though. I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, though I’ve been living legally in the United States since 1958 and have been a citizen since 1967. When we were stopped, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, led by Joe Arpaio, routinely engaged in racial profiling of Latinos in Phoenix and the surrounding area. After Arpaio refused to end discriminatory treatment of Latinos despite a federal court order that I and other victims of his had won, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court—which is what President Donald Trump pardoned him for Friday night.
What happened to me and Eva that night eight years ago was all too typical: We were driving a pickup truck with landscaping tools, and we were Hispanic, so we got pulled over by an overzealous deputy working for a sheriff who never made any attempt to hide his contempt for immigrants.
The deputy asked me if I was carrying any drugs, weapons or bazookas. I told him I did not have any drugs or bazookas, but that I did have a gun in the truck, which I was legally permitted to carry. He ordered me to hand it over, which I did, and then he told me to step out and put my hands on the side of the truck and spread my legs.
“What’s going on?” I said.
“I’m going to search you,” he answered.
I asked him what he was searching me for.
“Drugs and weapons,” he told me.
I replied that I’d already told him I didn’t have any drugs and had already given him my gun, but he told me he was going to search me anyway.
Standing there in the street, he patted me down—my underarms, my torso, my legs, even my groin. My wife was watching the whole time. That was the most humiliating part: I couldn’t defend myself or her.
When the search was finished, I asked the deputy for the third time why he’d pulled us over. He said it was because he hadn’t been able to see the license plate on my truck. And then, finally, he let us go, with this warning: “Don’t think for a minute that this has anything to do with racial profiling.”
But that was exactly what it was. In all my time living in Phoenix, it was the first—and only—time where I felt I’d been pulled over just because of the color of my skin. The experience left Eva traumatized: She’d bring it up, often, out of nowhere, from that night until she died in January 2016.
Not long after we were stopped, I contacted the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and I joined their lawsuit against Arpaio—a lawsuit they had filed the year before we were pulled over. Three years later, in 2012, I finally had my chance to testify against Arpaio. Eva and I both worried that we were in danger from the sheriff, his men or his supporters in Arizona, though I never let her know I was almost as scared as she was. When we won the case in 2013, I was elated.
Arpaio never stopped his racist practices, though, which is why he was finally convicted of contempt.
I followed all the related cases closely. On election night last fall, I was so happy to see that the voters had finally rejected Arpaio. And again last month, when Arpaio was convicted, I felt like we’d triumphed. My one regret was that Eva wasn’t there to share that victory.
That triumph, that elation, didn’t last long, because of Trump.
I trust in the judicial system, and I always will: I always trust the justice system of America. But I never thought the president would come and step all over it.
On Friday night, I got a text from a friend I used to work with, telling me the news of Arpaio’s pardon. Soon after that, my daughters called, then my sister, then another friend. I’m not an angry person, but Friday night, I was furious.
Arpaio built a culture in his department of discrimination and racism. By pardoning him, Trump is saying to the nation that it’s OK to insult another race or another culture. Instead of making America great, he’s making America a lot more divided, just like Arpaio did here in Phoenix.
The two of them both should look at their consciences and change their ways.
Once again, the Cassia County Fair and Rodeo did not disappoint and kept true to its theme of being an ageless tradition. It was an absolute pleasure to come together with neighbors and friends to celebrate the accomplishments of all who participated and exhibited this year.
There is a tremendous amount of behind the scenes work that goes into making “fair week” a success. I’d like to extend my deep appreciation to the Fair Board for the countless hours spent, year-round, in planning and preparing for this celebration of our community. Great effort is made by many parents, volunteers, 4-H leaders and FFA advisers in supporting the young people who have a desire to participate, and learn skills that will serve them for a lifetime. It’s impressive to see the talents and results of our hardworking youth as they are rewarded for these efforts. I’d also like to extend thanks to the buyers who support them by purchasing animals, as well as the overall event sponsors that contributed throughout the fair and rodeo. Our community never falls short in its generosity, and makes for a great event every year.
As the door closes on the 2017 Fair and Rodeo, I look forward to next year and plan to see you there!
Cassia County Commissioner
For those a long time around Idaho, losing Cecil Andrus is like losing a member of the family.
When I first arrived in Idaho in 1973, his was one of the few Gem State names I’d ever heard. He was then well into his first term as governor, following his second run for the office. At his death this week he had been a well-known Idahoan and a representative leader of the state for longer than just about anyone I can think of; statistically at least, he was governor longer than anyone else, and never was he a mere caretaker.
But it was a while before this point about him came clear to me: He didn’t get there by dint of deep Idaho roots; he didn’t, in a phrase I’ve heard elsewhere, live on a road named for his grandparents. At the time he first ran for governor, in 1996, he’d been in the state little more than a decade, moving to Orofino from Oregon in the spring of 1955 as a logger. He was elected to the state Senate only half a decade after his Idaho arrival. (Barely a decade after that, he was United States secretary of the Interior.)
That alone speaks to something unusual about his capabilities in politics. Too often the word “politician” is used as a derogatory; it ought to be a term of praise, and as a natural politician Andrus stands as a good demonstration of why.
Those reasons weren’t immediately obvious back then, and have little to do with his charismatic presence, though Andrus was one of those people whose presence in a room is immediately felt. His urbane surface with well-chosen words and that smart you-know-and-I-know wink developed over time, and his entry into politics famously was said to come in a fit of anger. (A local Republican apparently taunted him that it was a good thing he didn’t run for the Legislature, because he would have been clobbered; Andrus took the bait and defeated the Republican incumbent.)
But his instincts about how to run for office and about how to act and govern once there seemed to come from somewhere deeper; seem almost to have been there all along. They seemed rooted where they should, in an understanding of human nature stronger than most people have.
He also had a deep understanding of Idaho, and in turn he helped change the way Idahoans thought about themselves.
When Martin Peterson and I some years back published a list of the most influential Idahoans in state history, we ranked Andrus at 16, and the main argument about that was the contention he should have ranked higher. We did rank him higher than any other governor, and his long-time associate and columnist Chris Carlson built a book about him around the title “Idaho’s Greatest Governor.” His effects on education, environmental protection and economic development in the state have been enormous.
Peterson and I suggested, “One of Andrus’ greatest impacts may be psychological: He added in 1970 a new dimension to the way Idahoans think about their state, when he campaigned in part on ‘quality of life’ as an important ideological consideration.” It had not much been part of the way Idahoans thought about their state before then, but it has been ever since.
Andrus left the governorship in 1995, and has not sought or held office since. But he has been visible through the years, taking a role on issues, mentoring people and helping candidates, building community activities such as the foundation started under his name.
That’s his role in the family. He carried it superbly.