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U.S. | Immigrant Rights | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice

Arizona Sherriff Faces Civil Rights Probe, Allegations of Undermining Law Enforcement With Controversial Focus on Immigration
by via Democracy Now
Wednesday Feb 18th, 2009 7:21 AM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 :Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County has forced prisoners to march through the streets of Phenix dressed in just pink underwear, housed prisoners in tents in the searing heat and appears on a Fox reality-TV show. Now, he could be facing a federal investigation for civil rights abuses and a trial on charges of racially profiling Latinos. He's also been accused of focusing on immigration enforcement at the expense of other law enforcement duties.
The man who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” could be facing a federal investigation for possible civil rights abuses and a trial on charges of racially profiling Latinos. The chairpersons of four House committees called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last Friday to investigate allegations of misconduct against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona.

Earlier this month, in a move the New York Times called a
“degrading spectacle,” Sheriff Arpaio forced 200 shackled prisoners to march through the streets of Phoenix, from a local jail to his infamous tent city that is surrounded by an electric fence. Many accused the Sheriff of pulling a publicity stunt to promote his new reality television show on FOX, “Smile, You’re Under Arrest!”

In their strongly-worded letter Representatives John Conyers, Zoe Lofgren, Jerrold Nadler, and Bobby Scott accuse the Sheriff of “blatant disregard for the rights of Hispanic residents.” They say Latinos in Phoenix, citizens and non-citizens alike, “feel under siege” because of the Sheriff’s raids.

The Sheriff’s tactics of public humiliation have come under greater fire since Maricopa County entered into what is known as a Section 287 (g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. The agreement allows local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration enforcement functions. Last year Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon criticized Sheriff Arpaio for focusing on immigration enforcement at the expense of 40,000 outstanding felony arrest warrants.

The letter from Congressman Conyers and others urges Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to review and possibly terminate Maricopa County’s 287(g) agreements.

I’m joined now by two guests in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ryan Gabrielson, reporter with the East Valley Tribune. He’s just won the 2008 George Polk Award for Justice Reporting along with Paul Giblin for their five-part series on Sheriff Arpaio called “Reasonable Doubt.”

Salvador Reza, member of the Puente movement in Phoenix that grew out the spate of arrests and deportations under Sheriff Arpaio in 2007. He is part of a large group of organizations calling for a national demonstration in Phoenix next Saturday against 287 (g) agreements.

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