King defends Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio
December 15th, 2011 by Ric Hanson
PHOENIX (AP) — A scathing U.S. Justice Department report released Thursday found that Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s
office carried out a blatant pattern of discrimination against Latinos and held a “systematic disregard” for the Constitution amid a series of immigration crackdowns that have turned the lawman into a prominent national political figure. Arpaio struck a defiant tone in response to the report, calling it a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration that will make Arizona unsafe by keeping illegal immigrants on the street.
The government found that Arpaio’s office committed a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos, including unjust immigration patrols and jail policies that deprive prisoners of basic Constitutional rights. Arpaio has built his reputation on jailing inmates in tents and dressing them in pink underwear, selling himself to voters as unceasingly tough on crime and pushing the bounds of how far local police can go to confront illegal immigration.
Western Iowa 5th District Congressman Steve King said in a statement Thursday evening “I defend Joe Arpaio. I think he needs to continue with the tent city. And I think that the Department of Justice should not be using themselves as a tool, a political tool, to push back against people that are working to enforce the law.”
The findings will force Arpaio’s department to make major changes to carry out new policies against discrimination and improve training of staff and officers. Arpaio faces a Jan. 4 deadline for saying whether he wants to work out an agreement to make the changes. If not, the federal government will sue him, possibly putting in jeopardy millions of dollars in federal funding for Maricopa County.
The fallout from the report was swift. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it is severing its ties with Arpaio, stripping his jail officers of their federal power to check whether inmates in county jails are in the county illegally, a move that was meant to speed up deportation. Homeland security officials also are restricting Arpaio’s office from using a program that uses fingerprints collected in local jails to identify illegal immigrants.