Milwaukee-based photographer Darren Hauck recently visited Maricopa, Ariz., where controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been leading a radical campaign against undocumented workers. Arpaio is famous for his policy of sweeping the streets to make arrests, a practice that has been investigated by the Department of Justice for racial profiling (the DOJ has just sued Arpaio for refusing to cooperate with their investigations).
Equally famous are the conditions he has established for prisoners. Mother Jones, which recently published an investigative report on the death of a Mexican immigrant in Arpaio’s jails, describes the new “Tent City” and how it fits into his overall strategy:
Arpaio has declared that he has room for at least 1,000 new prisoners in the tents in the desert, where summer temperatures routinely hit the triple digits. Some Arizona officials have described the tents as a cost-saving measure, as they’ve served as an extension of overcrowded prisons that have housed a wide range of convicted criminals, in addition to immigrants. But Arpaio has made it clear that the “Tent City” is part of his larger plan to make life for prisoners humiliating and unbearable.
“I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant,” Arpaio once said of his tactics, which have also included chain gangs (for men and women), public parades in pink underwear (for men only), and massive illegal-immigration sweeps.
As a second-generation immigrant, I pay close attention to issues like these, so I asked Darren about the thoughts that went behind these photos.
Darren explained that growing up in a mid-sized city gave him a lot of exposure to Latin Americans and American-born Latinos; “its hard not to know one, or be friends,” he pointed out. “They are woven in the fabric of life, so it never seemed like a distant or foreign topic, even though I am thousands of miles from the border.”
It was a trip to Guatemala to take photos of a clinic that sparked Darren’s interest in investigating Latin America and its politics. Since then, he has spent six years taking photos in Central America, and recently he has begun to turn his journalistic curiosity towards immigration between Latin America and the US.
Darren acknowledges that the police confront serious social problems as they try to prevent crime in immigrant communities, but he also argues that these problems are centered in “about 1-2% of the population,” while “the 98% of the… nice, hard-working people suffer the consequences.” This is what he learned from the people he spoke to in Arpaio’s Tent City:
I am not talking about criminals who were picked up for doing bad things, I am talking about the man or woman who was pulled over for speeding and was found to be illegally here or without paperwork, or the individual who was busted in a raid at their place of work.
Darren concludes that some changes will need to be made to fix a broken system:
The majority of the people are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. The journey they are forced to take because of the failed system of citizenship is insane, plain and simple. The amount of struggle and fear of being robbed, raped, extorted, or killed is far beyond what anyone should have to go through, and that is just going through Mexico; once they cross into the US they live in fear, because at any moment they could be caught and sent back. We need to have a system where they can apply and come here and be legal, so they can work and be a positive mark in society instead of being forced into a life of shadows and fear.