Dia de los Muertos

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In Horizonte’s “SOC” Sounds of Cultura, a look at the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos, when many remember loved ones who have died. They prepare special foods, decorate cemeteries and even have parades. It’s their belief that the spirit of the dead comes out and visits their families.

Jose Cárdenas:
Good evening. I'm Jose Cárdenas. Tonight the mayor of mesa talks about an immigration operation conducted by the Maricopa county sheriff's office investigating a janitorial business in mesa for employer sanctions violations. In S.O.C. Sounds of cultura a ritual known as Dia de los Muertos celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States. Plus hear from the new special agent in charge of immigration and customs enforcement in Arizona. His priorities when it comes to human smuggling and more. This all coming up straight ahead next on Horizonte.

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Jose Cardenas:
Good evening and welcome to Horizonte. The Maricopa county sheriff's office conduct add secret early morning immigration rate at mesa city hall and other city building more than two weeks ago. Were part of a broader investigation into management cleaning controls that provides cleaning services for mesa. Sheriff's detectives have been investigating the company for months for employer sanctions violations. This operation was the latest event escalating tension between the mesa officials and Maricopa county sheriff over how to handle enforcement of illegal immigration. Joining me to talk about this is the mayor of mesa, Scott Smith. Mayor, thanks for joining us on Horizonte.

Scott Smith:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
This is the first time you've been on since your election. Congratulations.

Scott Smith:
Thank you very much.

Jose Cardenas:
A difficult subject, one many people are familiar with but just for those who may not have read all the newspaper articles, tell us what happened a few weeks ago.

Scott Smith:
A couple weeks ago about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning I got a phone call from our city manager that the Maricopa county sheriff's deputies were inside our main library and city hall building serving a warrant related to a cleaning service that did contract service -- contract janitorial service on our city. And so that was what I heard about it. And nothing the city had done, but primarily because of the contractor and suspicions that they had violated certain laws.

Jose Cardenas:
And in terms of the sheriff's offices activities, they were gathered at a park and then launched I guess a raid is the term that's being used on city hall and other buildings?

Scott Smith: Yeah.
They were gathered in a residential -- parked inside a residential area. And one of our police officers on a normal patrol came upon them, asked them what they were doing and was told, we can't really tell you. So he brought in one of his supervisors and a bunch of discussions went on. They were told that they were conducting certain training activities and then were told eventually they were ready to serve warrants. They went and served the warrants and entered into the library and the city hall.

Jose Cardenas:
How many deputies are we talking about?

Scott Smith:
I've heard somewhere between 30 and 60.

Jose Cardenas:
And you had a very strong reaction, it was captured in the print and television media.

Scott Smith:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
It led to a meeting with the sheriff. And I want to go back and discuss some of the details. But it was a meeting that you had with the sheriff. And I want to begin with a statement that he gave us for this program about that meeting and then we'll talk about your perspective on it.

Jose Cardenas:
Mayor and cordial meeting in which we came to a reasonable understanding. We agreed to mutually work together in the future and he knows that I will continue to enforce state and federal immigration laws in mesa." let's begin with that reasonable understanding from your perspective?

Scott Smith:
I think we have an open dialogue. I think what we got out of the meeting we understand where the sheriff is coming from. Not that there was any doubt, but he confirmed his approach to enforcing immigration law. We talked about the differences between city of mesa, mesa police department, the sheriffs, and not so much in our objectives because we want to enforce the law also, but in the differences in how we go about things versus how he goes about things. We came to an understanding that there are differences. And it doesn't necessarily mean we're at odds with the sheriff's department. We work with the sheriff's department on a daily basis across our city. But in certain situations, the lack of coordination put us at odds. So that was the primary reason for the meeting and the primary reason for the understanding we got during the meeting.

Jose Cardenas:
What were your specific criticism this operation?

Scott Smith:
Our challenge all along we believe and I believe as mayor my number one priority is ensuring the public safety of our citizens. And I believe that when police departments, law enforcement agencies don't coordinate their activity, the citizens are put at risk. We're not maximizing the public safety, and we may be creating situations that could be dangerous. It's not unknown that policemen start shooting at each other when they don't know that each other is in the area. So that was our primary concern and has been all along that there seems to be this gulf, this gap. And when the sheriff's department came in to conduct operations in mesa there was not coordination, there was not communication. And as a mayor that was my primary concern.

Jose Cardenas:
Now, the sheriff's office also had a subpoena for documents. And as I understand it, you thought there were better ways that could have been handled, too.

Scott Smith:
Once again, I think that a phone call, coordination with our office, the city manager's office, could have accomplished the same goal without the theatrics, without exciting people and everything. We've provided documents for the sheriff's department before. We have cooperated in a wide range of criminal investigations with the sheriff's department. And we just thought this was in this particular instance was a little over the top. And we expressed that to the sheriff.

Jose Cardenas:
And his response?

Scott Smith:
He said, I understand where you're coming from. Here's why I did what I did. And this is one of the issues that we sort of agreed to disagree on. We have different points of view. We were each very firm in how we went about things. And it was good to have that talk. I think one of the things that we tried to accomplish here, and that we did accomplish, is you're right, I was upset the day after the raid or that afternoon. I felt that our city and the procedures in our city hall was violated in many ways. And we could have continued on with what seems to be the debate around here, which is doing press conferences, doing press releases. We decided we did not want to go there. We wanted to work toward a solution to perhaps open up communication. This whole debate over immigration has become so polarized and it has gone to the absolutes and extremes that we felt we could not continue and do our citizens right by that. Which is why we reached out to the sheriff and said, we want to talk about this. And the sheriff accepted.

Jose Cardenas:
And did you come to an agreement about how these kinds of things will be handled in the future in terms for example of notice for you?

Scott Smith:
We didn't get into any specifics. But we did agree and the sheriff agreed is he said he would cooperate, he would coordinate, he will inform the city when he's going to conduct certain type of activities. We didn't get into specifics of how that will happen. I'm sure those details will work out and we'll have to see how they come into play if something like this happens again.

Jose Cardenas:
The sheriff's justification seems to be that a city of mesa police lieutenant was tipped off to the fact that there were people here illegally who were working for this company. And then he launched his own investigation, on the theory that nothing was being done. What's your response to that?

Scott Smith:
Well, actually there was something being done. And I think it was a misunderstanding between the person who launched the complaint and the police lieutenant.

Jose Cardenas:
As I understand it was a former employee?

Scott Smith: A
t the time it wasn't a former employee but is now a former employee. And the former employee believed by his conversation -- and what was said I don't really know, I wasn't there -- that nothing would be done. In fact, the police lieutenant did pursue that, did notify his superiors that there had been an allegation. And it was pursued. We chose -- the city and then the police department and others -- chose not to pursue a criminal investigation at that point. We took upon an administrative. Because in our contracts with all of our contractors, we have a very direct clause that states that they must comply with state and federal laws, and especially they must confirm that all of the employees that are working for them are legal residents and can legally work in the company. We pursued the administrative side, believing that our punishment to them of canceling their contract, taking that business away, would be sufficient. The contractor denied up and down that anything was going on. We can be debated as to whether we should have taken further steps at that time. But we had a disgruntled employee and we had a contractor. And at that time a decision was made to basically put this contractor on probation and warning and let them know that if these allegations were proven true that they would be terminated. We have since looked back, and we realize that perhaps that there is a little gap in our process. And we're taking steps to close that gap. That just having that conversation and that assertion from a contractor may not go far enough in assuring that our contracts are followed. We're very serious about our contracts being followed.

Jose Cardenas:
How are you going to handle this in the future?

Scott Smith:
A situation such as this?

Jose Cardenas:
Yes.

Scott Smith:
I think what we'll do is go one step further. We'll get into more detail with the contractor. We'll ask for more assurances and more documentation, perhaps. We haven't yet come up with specific procedures, but we will. We will move it further. Because now we've realized that there was this shortcoming in our procedures.

Jose Cardenas:
Has there been any further investigation or is the investigation you conducted concluded now with respect to this particular incident? How your office or the city handled this?

Scott Smith:
Well, we were also looking into what happened with the police lieutenant and whether his notification and up the chain of his command, whether that's something which had had some -- some problems with it also. We're looking into that. We want to do things better, we want to do things right. We want to enforce the law but also protect rights and do things in the correct manner. So we're looking top to bottom. If we did things that weren't exactly right in this process, we're not afraid as a city to say, listen, we can do it better. We can look at things how we did it. If we made a mistake we'll correct it. If we're doing something right we'll make it better. In this instance we're looking at all different aspects to make sure we handed this situation in a proper manner.

Jose Cardenas:
The sheriff has suggested one of the reasons he didn't give notice -- may not be too inclined to give much notice in the future -- is because of his differences with the Chief Gus Collins.

Scott Smith:
Yeah.

Jose Cardenas:
How much is there to that and what if anything is the city doing about that?

Scott Smith:
Well, if the sheriff says he has issues with Chief Gus Cullman I guess there are issues. He indicated there was a lack of trust. We take that seriously. And I think we're going to work harder to make sure that our police agencies can work together. Once again, on a day-to-day basis we work very well with Maricopa county sheriff's department. It just seems that when we come to these special issue that is we have a little bit of a breakdown, a major breakdown perhaps. So we're going to be working internally to better -- to get procedures that are better so that we can build the kind of trust that we need with all law enforcement agencies including the sheriff's department.

Jose Cardenas:
Now, mayor, the "raid" on city hall garnered not just local but national attention as well. There are other issues facing the city of Mesa. You've got severe budget crunches that you're dealing with, also a bond bill coming up. We've got about a minute left. Let's talk quickly about those two things.

Scott Smith:
We are like every governmental agency, certainly in Arizona and really throughout the United States, facing the realities of what I believe is a shift in our economy and a new world, a new reality. We're not only looking at cuts in the city of mesa, we are really looking at changing the way that we conduct our business. We have to. I think that this is not just a temporary blip. I think that in many ways the economics of how cities are financed, how our resource that is we have available to us and the services we provide are going to be changed. And it's something we will take very seriously. We're looking at reorganization, we're looking at changing the manner in which we provide services, we're changing in which services we provide. And I think the citizens of Arizona may have to get used to the fact that things might be different with governments and how they provide services. The way things were done last month, last year, last decade, may change. And certainly for the short-term in the city of mesa, they are going to change.

Jose Cardenas:
Just a quick note on the bond vote.

Scott Smith:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
The next Tuesday, right?

Scott Smith:
Next Tuesday we have bonds. You could say it's the worse time to put bonds. We think even in troubled times we need to continue to invest in our community. These bonds are investments in public safety and streets. The city council cut the original proposal by 60%. It's important to continue to invest in our communities or else they will decline, they will not provide the kind of quality of life and safety that our citizens deserve. And so we need our citizens to continue to agree to invest in the community and vote yes on the bonds, approve them.

Jose Cardenas:
Scott Smith, mayor of the city of mesa, thanks for joining us.

Scott Smith:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
El Dia de los Muertos is a custom the families observe in Mexico and parts of the United States on November 1st. It's a ritual in honor of the dead. In S.O.C. Sounds of Cultura Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez explains why this unique tradition is celebrated every year.

Nadine Rodriguez:
Dia de los Muertos is a ritual practiced by the indigenous people in Mexico for more than 3,000 years. Native viewed death as the continuation of life, the most common item used to celebrate the dead is the skull. They were used to symbolize death and rebirth and were used to honor the dead believed to come back to visit their loved ones during the month of august. It is believed the celebration fell on the ninth month of the Aztec solar calendar at about the beginning of august which is when celebrations were held for the goddess known as lady of the dead. Conquistadores who arrived in Mexico more than 500 years ago witnessed this ritual and considered it to be barbaric and tried to stop the celebration unsuccessfully. The ritual was eventually moved to coincide with all saint's day, celebrated on November 1st, to make it a more Christian event, in order to convert indigenous people to Catholicism. Today, day of the dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States. In Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. The relatives decorate their loved once' grave sites with flowers, candles as well as toys for dead children and bottles of tequila for adults -- tequila for the adults. They have picnics next to the grave sites and leave their loved ones favorite foods. They build altars in their homes dedicated to the dead. They light a candle and place them next to the altar. The celebration is now also celebrated in parts of South America and has become a celebration for all to embrace.

Jose Cardenas:
Arizona has been a well-known gateway for immigrants crossing the border illegally. The department of immigrations and customs enforcement known as I.C.E. was create today deal with border issues. The new special agent in charge of I.C.E. Comes to the valley from a top position with the department in Washington, D.C. Joining me now is Matthew Allen. Agent Allen, welcome to Horizonte. Welcome to Arizona.

Matthew Allen:
Thank you, Jose.

Matthew Allen:
Actually welcome back. I've lived here before and worked here for I.C.E. before I went to Washington.

Jose Cardenas:
If you've lived here before why did you return in august? You should have known better.

Matthew Allen:
I knew what I was getting into.

Jose Cardenas:
Tell us what you were doing back east. Then I want to talk about your responsibilities here.

Matthew Allen:
Sure. While I was assigned in Washington I was the deputy assistant director of two of our investigative divisions at I.C.E. Headquarters. For about a year or so, I ran a division called identity -- i'm sorry -- identity and benefits fraud which included work site enforcement and critical infrastructure protection so I had oversight of our work force protection program from Washington. Later on I headed another division that had our human smuggling program in it. So I have a pretty good grounding in many of the issues we focus here on the southwest border.

Jose Cardenas:
What is your particular area of focus here in Arizona? And is it just Arizona or is it broader than Arizona?

Matthew Allen:
My responsibility is just the state of Arizona. And as you imagine, our responsibilities here are pretty broad and focus on the full spectrum of border crime that you see along the southwest border, which includes everything from money laundering and money moving towards Mexico, arms trafficking and arms moving towards Mexico, and then drugs and humans that are smuggled into the United States.

Jose Cardenas:
And what kind of resources do you have in terms of manpower and other resources?

Matthew Allen:
We have about 380 employees with the office of investigation which includes about 300 criminal investigators that are right around the state in offices and conduct criminal investigations focused on the border crimes that I've described.

Jose Cardenas:
Now, a subject of great discussion in Arizona has been the 287-g agreements that you have with various law enforcement agencies here in the state. Tell us about those.

Matthew Allen:
287-g is a very powerful authority. It allows us to cross designate state and local officers to enforce the immigration and nationality act. We have some power programs, across the nation programs that allows police agencies to enforce the customs laws under title 19. 287-g has become well-known. We have 77 agreements around the United States with police agencies and seven agreements in Arizona.

Jose Cardenas:
Who are the principal agencies in Arizona?

Matthew Allen:
They include the Arizona department of public safety, the phoenix police department, Maricopa sheriff's office, Pinal county sheriff's office and Pima county sheriff's office as well as Yavapai County.

Jose Cardenas:
It was reported in the newspapers about a month ago that agency has launched a review, which you indicated is a rather routine thing, of its memorandum of understanding with the sheriff's office. What can you tell us about that?

Matthew Allen:
Yes. I.C.E.'s office of professional responsibility has begun reviewing all 77 of the memorandums of agreement that we have with agencies around the United States. Maricopa County was the fourth of those agencies to be reviewed. And we had a review team from headquarters come out about a month ago and provide a review of the program look at how we're executing the program. As you indicated, the 287-g program has become expanded in the last few years. As we grow the program, we think it's incumbent upon us to make sure that we are doing it in a proper way, making sure that it's resourced properly, making sure the strategic needs of D.H.S. And I.C.E. Are being met as we use the program, as well as the agencies that are taking on our authority.

Jose Cardenas:
So a lot of the focus, though, would be on I.C.E. And how it's meeting its obligations under the agreement? Is that right?

Matthew Allen:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
I guess in responsiveness, have you had any complaints or concerns about that?

Matthew Allen:
No. I think the issue of responsiveness from I.C.E. That we've had in the last few years is outside the bounds of 287-g, I think, in the early days of I.C.E. We received some criticism for our responsiveness to --

Jose Cardenas:
One of your predecessors received some criticisms about how quickly they were responding to calls from the jail, for example, to pick people up?

Matthew Allen:
Yeah. And I think I.C.E.'s office of detention and removal operations has taken great strides to increase our ability to respond effectively to law enforcement calls for service. I think that's made a much more possible for I.C.E. To work on its relationships with the law enforcement agencies in the state. I think the reality is that we could not accomplish our homeland security mission without having excellent working relationships with the law enforcement agencies at all levels of government and the state. And I think one of the things that we've accomplished in the last couple of years is improving those relationships dramatically.

Jose Cardenas:
To what extent does the review focus on compliance with the agreement by the entity, in this case the sheriff's office?

Matthew Allen:
You know, one of the aspects that was looked at in the review was whether or not there have been complaints lodged against the agency, either with I.C.E.'s office of professional responsibility, with the U.S. Attorney's office, or other investigating agencies in the state. And so far we have not been able to identify any allegations that were made against Maricopa county or any of the agencies in this state who operate under memorandums of agreement.

Jose Cardenas:
I want to ask you some more questions about that. But the review, I understand, has been completed but not released.

Matthew Allen:
The field review is done. None of the reports that have been generated so far have been released. They're all at headquarters under review. And I'm not sure whether the reports will be issued individually or whether there will be a come pilings report at -- compilation report at the end of all 77 reviews.

Jose Cardenas:
You said a moment ago there have not been any I think you said allegations of abuse or improper use of the M.O.U., but we've got the mayor of the city of phoenix who's made a -- filed a complaint with the justice department or asked for an investigation. You've got lawsuits have been filed against the sheriff's office attaching the memorandum of understanding, attaching other documents from I.C.E. And saying that sheriff is abusing his authority under the agreement. Is that not considered an allegation of abuse that would be investigated?

Matthew Allen:
You know, I don't want to speak to any one of those individual allegations. I don't think it's I.C.E.'s role to since we are not a party to have to those complaints or allegations. But I think the issue at hand is that as far as I understand, none of those allegations focus on the use of I.C.E.'s authority. As you're well aware and I think your viewers are well away, the state of Arizona has been very aggressive and progressive in enacting state laws which focus on illegal immigration. And very much of what the sheriff's office does relies on their use of state authority, which is inherent to them as law enforcement officers. And they don't need I.C.E. Authority to do much of what they do in the area of immigration enforcement because the state of Arizona has empowered them to enforce laws that are very similar and parallel and track many of the federal statutes.

Jose Cardenas:
The sheriff insists repeatedly in his own press releases that he is enforcing state laws as you say but he also says he's enforcing federal immigration law. Would that be a violation of the memorandum of understanding?

Matthew Allen:
No. I think as you indicate and I think many of the press releases that you refer to indicate, he often refers to his enforcement of immigration law in a sequence, state and federal immigration law. And that's how we envisioned the use of the 287-g authority. The sheriff's office and other agencies throughout the state have for rely on their own inherent authority to conduct police activities on a daily basis. How they enforce the state laws regularly. Our vision for the 287-g authority is that authority kicks in after across designated officer has exhausted all their resource and authorities under state law and then the 287-g authority kicks in.

Jose Cardenas:
The allegations have been made that sheriff's office is using his authority to, for example, conduct raids on day laborers, to arrest people for traffic offenses, principally because he suspects them of being here illegally. A few months ago at least on your website you had a frequently asked questions document that said, for example, that officers trained and certified in the 287-g program use their authority when dealing with someone suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense. If that's what the sheriff is doing is stopping people for traffic offenses so that he can then exercise his authority under 287-g, would that be a violation of the memorandum of understanding?

Matthew Allen:
I think the fact of the matter he is not. I think the reality is the sheriff and his officers are enforcing state law. Every day police officers around the state --

Jose Cardenas:
How do you know that?

Matthew Allen:
Well, because I rely on the fact that we have not received any allegations to I.C.E.'s office of professional responsibility or the U.S. Attorney's office that allege that --

Jose Cardenas:
The East Valley Tribune did an extensive investigation few months ago that concluded precisely that, that that the sheriff was making stops without probable cause and arresting people.

Matthew Allen:
I think that's where we have to separate ourselves from reporting and allegations that have been brought forward by aggrieved parties. I think notwithstanding "the east valley tribute" report, I.C.E. Has not received any allegations that we can pursue that would speak to that. And the reality is that in those situations, my understanding is that Maricopa county sheriff's officers are relying on state law and charged people with state violations as a result of those stops.

Jose Cardenas:
But have you conducted any investigations to determine that?

Matthew Allen:
No.

Jose Cardenas:
O.K., well we're out of time. Welcome back to Arizona. Thank you for joining us.

Matthew Allen:
You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

Jose Cardenas:
I'm Jose Cárdenas. Thank you so much for joining us. Have a great night.

Matthew Allen:Special Agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.);

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