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Justice Department to Investigate Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Federal authorities told Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that they will investigate his department over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures — a claim his critics have been making for years.

According to The Associated Press, The Justice Department wrote in a letter that it will focus on alleged patterns of police discrimination based on national origin. As I noted the other day, Arpaio is already being sued in a civil case for exactly the same thing.

Arpaio, as he has before, denied the charges yesterday, and said he’ll cooperate with the Justice Department’s probe. “If they want to come down, let them come,” he told The Associated Press. “We’ll open our books. We have nothing to hide.”

Immigrants’ rights advocates were thrilled with today’s news, and used the opportunity to reiterate their call for a thorough review of the federal government’s 287(g) program, which delegates to local sheriffs like Arpaio broad powers to enforce the immigration laws, which critics claim lead to ethnic and racial profiling.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, issued the following statement today:

“The news of the DOJ investigation is a welcome first step towards re-establishing justice in Maricopa County. We are confident that the investigation will reveal the Arpaio approach to law enforcement for what it really is – un-American, ineffective, and anti-Latino. As a result, we expect Arpaio’s authority to check immigration status under the 287(g) program to be terminated.”

“Sheriff Arpaio’s actions have long been the best example of why the federal government needs to take back control of immigration enforcement. While Arpaio’s abuses are particularly vile, we support [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano’s call for a full review of the 287(g) program and were troubled by the recent GAO report questioning its effectiveness.

Napolitano’s review should ensure that communities continue to have good relationships with their local police departments, not be scared of them. The only real solution is enacting immigration reform law that secures our borders, legalizes undocumented workers, and re-establishes a coordinated intergovernmental immigration strategy. This remains our best path forward to fix a broken system and guard against future abuse.”

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