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Top News

Sheriff Arpaio Loses Federal Immigration Enforcement Powers

December 15, 2011  | 

The Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security stripped Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio of several federal tools for immigration enforcement after a scathing Justice Department report accused his office of discriminatory policing.

Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano terminated the agency's 287(g) jail model agreement and restricted access to the Secure Communities fingerprint database. A 287(g) agreement allows local officers to identify, process, and detain immigration offenders, after receiving training from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust," Napolitano said in a statement. "DHS will not be a party to such practices."

Earlier in the day, the Justice Department accused the sheriff's agency of racially profiling Latinos, retaliating against critics of its practices, and operating its jails in a way that discriminates against Spanish speakers. 

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said the Maricopa County Sheriff's office is "broken in a number of critical respects" at a press conference announcing the findings of the three-year DOJ probe.

Sheriff's Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre called the release of the findings a "sneak attack" in the Arizona Republic.

The Justice Department began its investigation of the agency in June 2008 and initially focused on allegations of discriminatory policing and discrimination in its jails.

In 2010, the DOJ sued the agency to obtain records. The suit accused Sheriff Arpaio's agency of unlawfully detaining Latinos. The DOJ also claims that Maricopa deputies routinely punish Latino inmates who are limited English proficient when they fail to understand commands given in English, and denies critical services that are provided to other inmates, Perez said.

In the area of discriminatory policing, the DOJ reportedly found that MCSO deputies engage in unlawful racial profiling of Latino drivers. During the investigation, an expert on racial profiling conducted a statistical analysis of MCSO traffic stops. The expert found that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.   The expert concluded that this case involved "the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he had ever personally observed in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature," Perez said.

In the area of jail management, MCSO apparently drafted a policy in 2010 acknowledging the importance of being able to communicate with Spanish speaking inmates in Spanish and declaring "the use of Spanish is not only important to everyday communication; it is essential to the overall operation of the jails and the safety of the inmates and officers."

The DOJ also listed three other "areas of concern," including use of force, failure to provide adequate police services in Latino communities, and failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assault.

By Paul Clinton


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