Justice Investigates Arpaio

Washington     Big news was burning through the community of organizations and activists committed to winning comprehensive immigration reform in Washington on Tuesday night. A letter had been sent and dated March 10th from an assistant Attorney General to the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio notifying him that the Department of Justice was commencing an investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s conduct in Phoenix in regard to immigrants. The letter contained the standard hems and haws and backside covering that is common in the DC bureaucracy, but the bottom line that had been demanded by marchers in Phoenix and reform advocates around the country was unmistakable. Arpaio was on notice and under this administration was no longer a law unto himself in creating a terror in the Latino communities in Phoenix and doing so thanks to federal dollars. The bottom line of the letter was straightforward: “Our investigation will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office], and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals.” Advocates scheduled to turn in tens of thousands of petitions to Congress today with Representative John Conyers calling for action against Arpaio will now immediately move to present hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases of exactly the kind of discrimination by Arpaio’s office that the DOJ is investigating. This is not the beginning of the end for Arpaio, which happened in the streets of Phoenix by his own hand, but the writing is now clearly subscribed on wall that Arpaio’s reign of terror is over. It is impossible to imagine that Secretary Janet Napolitano will not immediately suspend all payment of 287g dollars to Arpaio while this investigation is ongoing. The investigation alone gives the Secretary more than enough cover to do right here. Once again the Administration is proving that it will respond to pressure and will do so quickly. The deeper problem is that Arpaio is less a symbol than he is a symptom of how bad the problem is for immigrants in America now. With the distraction of Arpaio removed, it is now time to go to the root of the problem and start fixing the broken system for immigrants in the US.

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