The Forum Applauds Calls for Federal Investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s Misconduct
February 13, 2009
Washington, DC – On Thursday, February 12, Members of the House Judiciary Committee requested Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate misconduct by Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The letter is a direct response to Sheriff Arpaio’s February 4 actions, when he forced 220 shackled immigrants awaiting trial to march through the streets of Phoenix to a segregated facility called “Tent City”. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.
The National Immigration Forum commends House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI.), Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) for their leadership in calling for much-needed federal review and investigation of Sheriff Arpaio and his enforcement of immigration law. Sheriff Arpaio’s utter disregard of individual rights, as demonstrated most recently by his humiliating march of shackled pre-trial detainees through the streets of Phoenix, is perhaps the most egregious example of the current abuse of laws, such as those commonly referred to as 287(g) agreements, that empower local authorities to enforce federal immigration law. The Sheriff Arpaio’s reported use of racial profiling and excessive force cannot be justified under any circumstance, and certainly not as a means of enforcing immigration law.
Over the last two weeks, organizations from across the country have come together to repudiate the actions of Sheriff Arpaio. The Forum is proud to have worked with labor, civil rights, faith and immigrant organizations to submit a national sign-on letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano requesting she conduct a comprehensive review of Sheriff Arpaio’s management of the 287g agreement and determine the need to terminate Maricopa County’s participation in the program, based on the violations of the terms of the agreement which have resulted in civil rights abuses. Similarly, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund submitted a sign-on letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to direct the Civil Rights Division to initiate a federal investigation for potential civil rights violations during Sheriff Arpaio’s immigration enforcement actions. America’s Voice has also begun a similar petition calling for an investigation by the Department of Justice.
Sherriff Arpaio’s actions are public and have received widespread attention, but are not isolated instances. In order to genuinely address the potential for abuse in our current immigration system, the Obama administration must accelerate its efforts to fill key positions within DHS to give Secretary Napolitano the necessary resources and personnel to act swiftly to improve the rights of all. Likewise, the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties must be given adequate funding, staff, and support to provide the necessary oversight and compliance for local authorities enforcing immigration law.
Even with such changes, however, until the Administration and Congress tackle a comprehensive reform of our immigration system, demagogues and charlatans will attempt to pass off deaths in detention, forced marches, family separations, and civil rights abuses as all fair in the war on immigrants. We can and should do better, but today’s call for action by the Judiciary Committee is an important start towards ending at least one of the many instances of abusive treatment in our immigration enforcement system.
As our nation begins a “new era of responsibility”, we expect the new administration to deliver its promise of change and restore accountability and integrity to the enforcement of our immigration laws and the treatment of immigrants in our country.