Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Adds More Flash to His Pan


Photo by TomD.

Anti-immigrant media glutton, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, doesn’t stay out of the headlines for very long. In March, the menacing Sheriff Arpaio, known for transforming Arizona’s Maricopa County Police Department into an immigration-enforcement agency, made headlines when he became the focus of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation for “allegations of discriminatory practices based on a person’s national origin and unconstitutional searches and seizures.”

The federal investigation, a result of racial profiling allegations, only makes this latest headline all the more ironic—Sheriff Arpaio now says the Department of Justice is not playing fair in its investigation.

In a letter from Arpaio’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, to Department of Justice investigators, Arpaio claims that the Department of Justice improperly shared documents with the Department of Homeland Security, which is now scrutinizing Arpaio’s use of federal immigration authority.

“They are not playing fair,” Arpaio said last Tuesday. “There is a political motive behind all of this — and ethical violations. Right now, I’m fighting back.”

Really? Fair? Ethical? What’s fair or ethical about the pulling over Latino-looking U.S. citizens to check their immigration status? What’s fair or ethical about rounding up immigrant detainees, shackling them and forcing them to publically march to a segregated tent city surrounded by an electric fence? What’s fair or ethical about forcing immigrant detainees to wear pink underwear in order to humiliate them?

Although the Department of Justice declined to comment on the letter due to the ongoing investigation, DOJ spokesman, Alejandro Miyar, said the letter would be reviewed. He also assured the public that the investigation is being carried out according to law.

Career professionals in the civil rights division began looking into this last year, and the department made the decision to open this investigation in the same manner we make every such decision, based on the facts and the law.

Sheriff Arpaio has a long history of grand-standing and conducting publicity stunts in the name of immigration enforcement—so much so that Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County Supervisor, and several civil rights leaders presented a petition signed by more than 38,000 Arizona residents calling for an investigation into Arpaio’s behavior.

While “America’s Toughest Sheriff” works creatively to redefine “fairness” and create his own brand of vigilantism (in light of suspended federal funding), the Obama administration and Secretary Napolitano are working diligently to streamline DHS enforcement practices internally and on the border—all the while acknowledging these fixes are no substitute for comprehensive reform. If Sheriff Arpaio really cared about enforcing the law, as he claims, he’d be busy apprehending real criminals instead of waving letters in the air in a desperate cry for yet more media attention.

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