Joe Arpaio: Why is Obama administration suing an outspoken Arizona sheriff?
The Justice Department said Thursday that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County is not cooperating in an investigation into whether his department has used racial profiling in sweeps to catch illegal immigrants.
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More than 70 local law enforcement agencies in 26 states are part of 287(g), which has recorded about 118,500 deportations, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since 2007, 287(g) has allowed the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to help identify and oust more than 26,000 people living in the United States illegally – the highest tally in the country. Second to Maricopa, Los Angeles County helped deport nearly 14,000 illegal immigrants.Skip to next paragraph
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Supporters of 287(g) say it is a flexible and mutually beneficial program for both the federal government and local authorities. “If you’re in Arizona, where you have a major problem with illegal immigration, then obviously you’re going to want to use that to every extent you can,” says Bryan Griffith, a spokesman with the conservative Center for Immigration Studies.
Using 287(g) as it was intended?
But civil rights groups say Arpaio and other law enforcement agencies have abused the program, using racial profiling to conduct 287(g) illegal-immigrant sweeps.
“The way it’s played out on the ground has been witnessed by the world in Maricopa County and so there’s clearly a dissonance between its stated intentions and its effect in communities,” says Chris Newman, legal counsel for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
The Government Accountability Office also has been critical of 287(g) and in March the Office of the Inspector General concluded local police operated outside limits and noted insufficient federal oversight and training. ICE officials have said they were trying to make improvements even before the finding were issued.
Last year, the Obama administration revoked an agreement under 287(g) that allowed the sheriff's office to train a task force in immigration laws used to identify and arrest suspected illegal immigrants while out on patrol. His office still participates in a different part of 287(g), which allows deputies to identify potential illegal immigrants who are booked in jail.
[Editor's note: The original version misstated what 287(g) agreement the federal government had revoked.]
Through all this, Arpaio has continued his crackdowns, saying state laws give him all the authority he needs.
Jack Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona, agrees. And he says Arpaio's actions show the difficulty of bringing local law enforcement – sometimes with its own agenda – into a federal program. "287(g) is a federal program under federal supervision,” he says. “And the sheriff, like SB 1070, has a set of priorities that is different from those in the federal law.”
The Justice Department lawsuit does not deal with 287(g) explicitly, but is looking into the allegations that the sheriff's office uses racial profiling during its sweeps to find and detain illegal immigrants.