Justice Department Investigation of Arizona Sheriff Welcomed, Needed, And Overdue
March 11, 2009
Washington, DC – According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) letter dated March 10, the Civil Rights Division will be investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) focusing on “…alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination…” The MCSO has a 287g agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to conduct immigration enforcement actions and Sheriff Arpaio was recently described by Ali Noorani as “the poster boy for all that is wrong with the 287g program,” in a Wall Street Journal article. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.
We welcome the Department of Justice’s investigation because when a local elected official takes the law into his own hands, the role of the federal government is to protect the people from abuse. The Sheriff’s over-the-top publicity-seeking has made him a flashpoint for those concerned that immigration enforcement practices are out of control, but DOJ needs to keep a close eye on any Sheriff more concerned with headlines than the Constitution and the law. In the mean time, the Sheriff’s 287g agreement with the federal government should be suspended pending the outcome of this investigation.
Just because the Congress has not passed immigration reform is no excuse for the federal government to abdicate enforcement to local sheriffs, especially when some of those local police have abused their power. How and when local police should enforce federal immigration law and how the 287g program has been administered has been ignored by Washington for too long. Issues raised by a series of government and non-government reports (link, link, link) clearly indicate that more oversight is needed and not just from the Department of Justice.
These developments put additional pressure on Congress to address immigration reform. State and local governments and law enforcement are rightly calling for action, the American people want to know when someone will act to address immigration, and immigrant communities that feel under siege want clear next steps towards reform. We need solutions that restore the rule of law, prioritize hardened criminals – immigrant and non-immigrant – for enforcement, and get the vast majority of hard working immigrants integrated into our communities and on the road to citizenship. That would be progress and much more constructive than this Arizona Sheriff’s stunts, which may be found to have been in violation of federal law.