For Immediate Release
AzCB Weighs in on GDUI’s Rescinding of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Invitation to Speak at Upcoming Luncheon
Contact Ron Brooks, President
Arizona Council of the Blind
3124 E. Roosevelt St. Ste. 4
Phoenix, AZ 85008
On Monday, June 14, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office released a statement to the media criticizing a decision by GDUI to withdraw an invitation to the Sheriff to speak at the upcoming GDUI luncheon, to be held in Phoenix on July 13. Sheriff Arpaio’s media statement went on to blame the Arizona Council of the Blind for urging the GDUI to rescind Sheriff Arpaio’s invitation, and statements from the Sheriff criticized the AzCB for taking this action and for putting the Sheriff’s stance on the enforcement of Arizona’s new immigration laws ahead of the Sheriff’s work to protect abused and neglected animals—which was the topic on which the Sheriff had been invited to speak.
The Arizona Council of the Blind wishes to state for the record that at no time has this organization taken any official positions regarding Arizona’s new immigration reform laws (commonly referred to as SB 1070), nor did the AzCB request the GDUI to rescind Sheriff Arpaio’s invitation to speak at its annual luncheon. Quite to the contrary, the AzCB Board recognizes that our diverse membership holds a wide range of opinions on both Arizona immigration reform and on the matter of whether Sheriff Arpaio should have been invited or uninvited as the GDUI luncheon speaker. Given the diverse viewpoints of our membership and our status as a registered 501C3 tax-exempt charitable organization, we have avoided any official positions on these issues.
An obvious question is how Sheriff Arpaio’s office came to believe that AzCB had urged GDUI to cancel Sheriff Arpaio’s invitation to speak. The AzCB believes that Sheriff Arpaio’s office may have received inaccurate information from someone within the GDUI organization who may not have been authorized to speak on behalf of GDUI. Subsequent to the Arpaio press release, we have spoken to the leadership of GDUI, and we are assured that GDUI does not hold AzCB responsible for its decision to rescind Sheriff Arpaio’s speaking invitation. GDUI has posted a statement regarding this matter to its own website at www.gdui.org.
The Arizona Council of the Blind urges everyone to recognize that feelings of the general population both within and beyond Arizona, and those within the blind community, are very divided on the question of immigration reform, and many people, both within and outside of AzCB and GDUI, have strong opinions about whether or not Sheriff Arpaio should have been invited to speak at GDUI’s luncheon. Nevertheless, AzCB wants to acknowledge Sheriff Arpaio for his work with abused and neglected animals—work which has gained national attention for its positive impacts on the animals who have been rescued and the inmates who take care of those animals. No one’s opinions or actions regarding the matter of Sheriff Arpaio’s speaking engagement with GDUI can detract from the positive impacts this program has had in Maricopa County. The AzCB also wishes to remind everyone that our goal (and that of other affiliates of the American Council of the Blind, including GDUI and its Arizona affiliate, Guide Dog Users of Arizona) is to promote the independence, dignity and capabilities of people who are blind or visually impaired. We view any efforts to divert attention from this overarching mission as distractions which should be avoided.
About the Arizona Council of the Blind
The Arizona Council of the Blind is a statewide consumer organization, comprised of blind and visually impaired people, their families, friends and others who are concerned about the needs and concerns of people who are blind or visually impaired. Our mission is to promote the economic, educational, employment, civic and social opportunities for blind and visually impaired residents of and visitors to Arizona. We achieve this mission through the distribution of annual scholarships to blind and visually impaired students, the provision of money to blind and visually impaired individuals for the purchase of products and services to mitigate the challenges of living with vision loss, through information-sharing programs, annual conferences and workshops, a quarterly newsletter, a website which includes on-line resources and a network of local chapters and affiliates. For more information about the AzCB, visit www.azcb.org.