Center for American Progress Action

STATEMENT: CAP Action’s Angela Kelley on DOJ Civil Rights Investigation on AZ Sheriff Arpaio
Press Statement

STATEMENT: CAP Action’s Angela Kelley on DOJ Civil Rights Investigation on AZ Sheriff Arpaio

Washington, D.C.—Today the Department of Justice released the results of a three-year investigation into the practices of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and its leader, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, finding a “pattern or practice of wide-ranging discrimination against Latinos.” Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, released this statement:

After nearly 20 years in office, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reign of terror against immigrants in Maricopa County, Arizona, is on its last legs. Today’s incredible work by the DOJ finds significant and widespread civil rights abuses and constitutional violations. Sheriff Arpaio and his office terrorized Latinos in the county and pushed a radical anti-immigrant agenda, disregarding the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.

Among the DOJ’s findings, Latinos in Maricopa County are four to nine times more likely to be stopped by law enforcement than non-Latinos. Sheriff’s Office officials also “discriminatorily punish Latino [Limited English Proficiency] inmates who fail to understand commands given in English by, for example locking down their pods … or imposing disciplinary segregation.” And, like a modern-day dictator, the Sheriff’s Office “retaliates against individuals who criticize its police practices … by subjecting its critics to retaliatory detentions and arrests without cause.”

This DOJ report follows the recall of another immigration hardliner in Arizona—State Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of the state’s anti-immigrant legislation, S.B. 1070. Now both Pearce and his henchman Arpaio are paying the price for their hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions.

Equally as disturbing as the allegations, however, is how some Republican presidential candidates actively sought Sheriff Arpaio’s endorsement and approval. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) all sought his endorsement, with Rep. Bachmann calling him “one of my heroes.” Gov. Perry (who ultimately received the endorsement) said he was “honored” to have the sheriff’s support for “our shared goals.”

Sheriff Arpaio’s actions hurt not only Latinos in the county, but also the communal safety of all residents. One only has to look at the recent news that Arpaio’s office mishandled more than 400 cases of sex crimes against minors from 2005–2007.

We applaud Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s actions in terminating Maricopa’s 287(g) agreement to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to work in the county’s jails, and hope that this report is just the beginning of the end of Sheriff Arpaio’s rule in Arizona.