National Immigration Forum

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Sheriff Arpaio in the spotlight of the Department of Justice

March 12, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

By now, you should be pretty familiar with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and not necessarily for his outstanding performance in the FOX reality show but for community complaints about his orchestrated publicity stunts; the latest one involved parading shackled pre-trial detainees through the streets of Phoenix and into a segregated facility called “Tent City”. Locally and nationally, immigration and civil rights groups have firmly condemned Sheriff Arpaio’s antics and the abuse of his 287(g) agreement —the program that empowers local authorities to enforce federal immigration law — resulting in civil rights violations, racial profiling and excessive use of force, not to mention costly lawsuits.


Just hours before the formal presentation of 38,000 petition signatures *calling for a federal investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s immigration enforcement actions, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will initiate an investigation. The Arizona Republic further reports,


The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil-rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office after months of mounting complaints that deputies are discriminating in their enforcement of federal immigration laws.


…Officials from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that they had begun the investigation, which will focus on whether deputies are engaging in "patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures."


Finally Sheriff Joe is receiving the attention he deserves! This is the first step for restoring adequate federal oversight of immigration enforcement actions, the article also points to the groundbreaking nature of the investigation,


An expert said it is the department's first civil-rights probe related to immigration enforcement.


The Justice Department frequently receives racial-profiling complaints against police departments, but investigations are rare, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh lawprofessor and racial-profiling expert.

"The fact that this has come to their attention and they have announced their intent to investigate is highly significant," Harris said. "It says there is enough there to be investigated. It's not an iffy case that (can be ignored)."

Arpaio to be investigated over alleged violations, March 11, 2009


We welcome the DoJ investigation and hope that it will further push the Administration and Congress to address immigration reform. As long as our immigration system remains in its current dysfunctional state, local authorities (like Sheriff Arpaio) will continue to exploit the confusion for their own political and publicity goals. 


*You can view videos from today’s press event presenting the 38,000 petition signatures at:

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