DOJ Investigation Findings Renew Calls for Arpaio’s Resignation

Valeria Fernandez


From New America Media: PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Human and pro-immigrant rights groups renewed their calls for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s resignation, following findings by the Department of Justice of racial profiling and abuse of Latinos by his agency.


The findings, announced Dec. 15, added fuel to the fire for those who want the federal government to put an end to national programs that give local police immigration powers.


“It was the climate created under 287(g) and Secure Communities that allowed this,” said Salvador Reza, a long-time Arpaio critic and a Tonatierra organizer, an Arizona based non-profit, adding: “And there are more Arpaios across the nation.”


Arpaio used the 287(g) agreement he signed in 2007 with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct massive immigration sweeps on mostly Latino communities.


Immigration advocates and politicians denounced the raids for racial profiling. They said deputies were pulling people solely because of the color of their skin for minor traffic infractions.


That eventually led to the partial cancellation of the 287(g) program. One portion still allowed jailers to inquire about the immigration status of people booked in jails, and allowed them to have people sign deportation papers.


But yesterday, the DHS announced the agreement’s full revocation.


The DOJ investigations revealed that there were also discriminatory practices in jails towards non-English speaking Latinos, who were punished simply for speaking Spanish. Their complaints or needs were ignored, the investigation revealed.


“Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust,” said Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, in a statement. “Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO’s 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office access to the Secure Communities program.”


But Reza warned that the issues of racial profiling and discrimination against Latinos could continue as long as SB 1070 — the state law that allows police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected to be undocumented -- was still on the books. The law was partially enjoined by a federal court, and is now awaiting a hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court.


“All police departments in Arizona are doing the same thing that Arpaio has with SB 1070,” asserted Reza. “They have authority to racially profile under SB 1070.”


Arturo Venegas, director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, said during a teleconference Friday that the findings of the investigation should be a wakeup call for the federal government.


“The Department of Homeland Security should be commended for limiting its cooperation with Arpaio, but until the racial profiling and aggressive tactics he championed are no longer encouraged by state laws like Alabama’s, or tacitly condoned by federal programs like Secure Communities, we have not yet eradicated his legacy of fear,” Venegas said.


Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute at New York University’s School of Law and an expert on the 287(g) program, said the investigation will most likely spark a review of the Secure Communities program.


Chishti said that he expects that type of program to disappear and be replaced by Secure Communities.


He doesn’t think that Secure Communities -- a controversial immigration enforcement program that shares fingerprints collected by state and local police with immigration authorities -- will inevitably lead to racial profiling.


“It depends on how they’re implemented,” he said referring to both programs. “It calls for a very strong and vigilant oversight. You might not assume that profiling doesn’t happen because people assert that it doesn’t happen.”


Growing calls for resignation


DOJ’s announcement come on the heels of a public meeting by the Board of Supervisors Wednesday in which a citizens group called on the board to support a resolution calling for Arpaio’s resignation.


The group, Citizens for a Better Arizona, was behind the recall of SB 1070’s architect, Sen. Russell Pearce.


CBA denounced recent reports that resurfaced in the media about the sheriff’s agency failure to investigate sexual crimes towards children in the town of El Mirage.


A large number of the reports that were not investigated referenced individuals with Hispanics surnames.


“Asking for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s resignation based on faulty, inaccurate and downright misleading statements is a perfect example of the ignorance we are talking about surrounding the sexual abuse cases,” said Jerry Sheridan a chief deputy at the sheriff’s office. “We never tried to cover up the fact that there was an issue,” he added later on.


Arpaio continues to be the target of another federal investigation that is looking into potential criminal misconduct and abuse of power.


Findings in a county report about the misspending of $100 million dollars in taxpayers’ moneys – that were meant to be used in jails but instead were used in immigration enforcement and corruption investigations -- were also submitted to the FBI as evidence.


Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said that the board of supervisors will meet with the county attorney to explore legal avenues of action against the sheriff. But she noted she mostly has faith in the pending federal investigation.


Though civil in its nature, the DOJ’s recent findings also underscored that Arpaio’s agency retaliated against individuals who were exercising their first amendment rights.


Wilcox said this particular finding could strengthen the foundation for the criminal investigation on abuse of power.

“I don’t think we can make any changes with Arpaio still here,” said Wilcox, who believes the federal government should take control over Arpaio’s agency.


Arpaio defiant

Arpaio said during a press conference Thursday that he had no intentions of resigning. He was flanked by a number of his attorneys. He never addressed the issue of whether or not he would investigate the findings or take action.


“I will continue to do my job and enforce all the law,” he said.


He complained about having the 287(g) program revoked and said his officers would no longer be able to inquire about individuals’ immigration status when they enter the jail.


“This is a sad day for America as a whole,” he said. “Today the federal government moved to do everything it can to put this agency out of the immigration enforcement business.”


MCSO Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said during the press conference that the DOJ was not being honest by drawing conclusions from just a few cases that there was a systemic problem with the agency.


“The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out,” said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.


He said he was expecting to cooperate with the sheriff’s office. The deadline to hear from Arpaio is January 4. Perez said he would “not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if MCSO chooses a different course of action.”


This is not the first time Arpaio is the subject of a DOJ investigation. In 1995, the Justice Department investigated his agency after complaints of mistreatment in the jails. It all ended in a lawsuit that was dismissed.


This time around, many activists say things could be different.


“He is no longer fit to be the top law-enforcement officer of this county,” said Randy Parraz, founder of CBA. “From school boards to city councils to the board of supervisors, we all need to join together to say he needs to resign.”

--New America Media

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