On January, 25, sociology students and faculty members crowded into AU's Abramson Recital Hall to hear American Sociological Association President-Elect Mary Romero discuss the anti-immigrant law enforcement and human rights violations committed by Joe Arpaio, the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Last month, Arpaio announced he would run for Arizona State Senate, after receiving a pardon by President Donald Trump in August 2017.
Romero presented her social research on immigration to the AU community after spending the day connecting with students and faculty in classroom discussions. Romero is a professor of Justice Studies and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University. Later this year she will take up the position of 110th president of the American Sociological Association. As a public sociologist and a proponent of social justice, her research combines intersectional theory to investigate how vulnerable populations navigate immigration, citizenship, and daily life in the United States.
Department Chair of Sociology Gay Young introduced Romero, emphasizing the importance of connecting sociology with political action. "Sociologists who partner with community groups, human rights organizations, civil rights lawyers, and other justice advocates can make significant contributions by producing scholarship that facilitates progressive social change."
Romero's presentation focused on immigration practices in Maricopa County and how President Trump's decision to pardon Arpaio normalizes human rights violations and legitimizes racism towards Mexican communities and immigrant populations. "Arpaio's tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff in Arizona demonstrates the use of state and federal legislation, along with the use of spectacles and symbolic politics, to police brown bodies and create a haven for anti-immigration vigilantes," she said in reference to Arpaio's community raids and strong ties to white nationalist groups.
AU Assistant Professor of Sociology Ernesto Castañeda said Romero's presentation was extremely informative. "Romero has been doing research for decades, she knows the details, the laws, and how this works in Arizona. Even though we hear about Arpaio in the national media, we don't hear enough about the deep effects of terrorizing immigrant communities, or the fascist groups that are given full range to roam the streets."
Amaya Gomez (BA broadcast journalism '19) added, "I thought the discussion was helpful because it put the things we hear in the media into perspective. It's important to remember that these issues have been happening for a while. This talk reminded students and faculty that immigration law enforcement is something we need to continue to discuss."
Romero closed her presentation by saying, "Although I focused on Arpaio's law enforcement practices and his use of spectacle and symbolic politics, we cannot lose sight of the state national government's participation in alarmist immigration rhetoric and laws embracing immigrants and terrorists as one and the same."