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Department of Justice to Investigate Sheriff Arpaio

New America Media, News Report, Maribel Hastings, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: Mar 11, 2009

Traduccin al espaol

Editor's Note: This week, the Department of Justice announced that it is investigating Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Telemundo airs an interview with the controversial figure; and 35,000 petitions arrive in Washington, D.C. to call for a review of the sheriff's tactics. Maribel Hastings writes for America's Voice.

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Department of Justice notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into him for "alleged" patterns of discrimination because of national origin, among other things.

The letter was sent on the eve of an event organized Wednesday by a coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups, including Americas Voice, to deliver 35,000 petitions calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff.

The tactics of the notorious sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and his use of racial profiling affecting the general population, including citizens and legal residents, have generated more than 35,000 petitions across the country calling for a federal investigation. They are also asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end its agreement with the sheriff through the 287(g) program.

Several congressional committees and subcommittees, including the House Judiciary panel, already have asked the Justice Department to review Arpaio's tactics.

In the short term, we hope the Department of Justice will investigate the horrendous abuses by Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County, and the DHS will end its 287(g) agreement with the sheriff because it is being used to violate peoples rights, affirmed Adam Luna, political director of Americas Voice.

In the long term, we want to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that respects the human rights and basic civil rights of everyone in this country and that prevents someones immigration status from being used to take away their basic human and civil rights, Luna added.

The 287(g) program authorizes the collaboration between local and federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws. But advocacy groups argue that the Arpaio case shows that the program is being used to commit abuses, even against citizens and legal residents.

Activists have complained that the use of racial profiling in Maricopa County has lead citizens and legal residents to be detained on the mere suspicion that they are undocumented.

To address the controversy, Noticiero Telemundos national newscast has been broadcasting a series on Arpaio and his tactics, including an extensive interview with the sheriff conducted by news reporter Pedro Sevcec.

In the series, Sevcec corners and pressures the sheriff to explain why his tactics shouldnt be considered racist. A defiant Arpaio insists that he is only doing his job and that the undocumented come here to steal jobs from citizens and legal residents.

Sevcec interviewed Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who indicated that there is definitely discrimination and racial profiling in Maricopa Country.

But Arpaio said that the mayors request for a federal investigation by the Department if Justice is based on garbage. Thats why nothing came out of it, and Congress is basing their case on the same garbage when by asking Secretary of Justice and my friend Janet Napolitano to investigate me. Im not worried, let them investigate me. I have nothing to hide, Arpaio told the reporter.

Sevcec told Americas Voice that at times the interview was surreal.

There are times when (Arpaio) was defiant and other moments were very tense. There are times when he was happy to generate controversy, Sevcec indicated.

The series features an interview with Arpaio defending his tactics, as well as responses by his critics, and a segment interviewing his detainees. Sevcec gained access to Tent City, where prisoners complained to him about the shortage of food (they eat two meals a day) and the sheriffs tactics of marching them in chains through the streets.

In another highly publicized tactic, Arpaio forces the detainees to wear pink underwear.

He (Arpaio) says they are uniforms, but at the same time he told me it was a really good idea thats allowed him to raise money because it was popular with the people who support him. He has ordered pink underwear to be made, because he know it will sell well, and at the interview he even brought me a pair of pink underwear that he signed and gave me, Sevcec said.

That speaks to what this man is like. On the one hand, he truly believes that he is doing his job, but there are times when he is happy to have so much publicity, even though he gets mad when you tell him he is seeking publicity, Sevcec added.

The man does things you cant agree with because he discriminates against undocumented people and Hispanics in general. In Maricopa County, he arrests people for their appearance; if someone looks Hispanic, he assumes they are undocumented, concluded Sevcec.

More than 2,700 lawsuits have already been filed against Arpaio. It is estimated that while the sheriff focuses on pursuing the undocumented, more than 40,000 arrest warrants against criminals are going unserved.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. police departments have opted not to participate in the 287(g) program because, among other reasons, they believe that allowing the local police to enforce immigration laws generates fear in the community and makes people afraid to report crimes to the police.

Last week a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the lack of internal controls in managing the 287(g) program has led some police departments to focus on arresting immigrants for minor crimes rather than concentrating on more serious offenses.

Related Articles:

Wrong Arm of the Law

ICE Program Shifts Immigration Costs, Abuses

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Marches Immigrants Through Public Square

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Gets Reality TV Show on FOX

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