Monday, February 16, 2009


Last week a few of your congressmen announced they were gunning for Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona. If you don't know who Sheriff Arpaio is, it would behoove you to find out.

This is the letter they sent to the Attorney General and to the Sec. Dept. of Homeland Security.

Sheriff Arpaio is enforcing the law.  He is doing what his constituents elected him to do.

Note the addresses and phone numbers in the letter.  These are phone numbers you can use to send your own messages to these congress people to tell them to back off.   

If you do not stand up for this Law Enforcement Officer, YOU will be next.


The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Attorney Genral Holder and Secretary Napolitano:

We write today concerning allegations of misconduct on the part of Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio that we believe mertit federal investigation and action.

In recent months, Arpaio has evinced a blatant disregard for the rights of Hispanic residents of the Phoenix area.  Last summer, apparently overreaching his authority under 287 (g) agreements with the Department of Homeland Security, Arpaio ordered his deptuties to scour Latino neighborhoods in his jurisdiction to search out undocumented immigrants.  Reports from the affected communities indicate that accepted notions of probable cause have been replaced by an analysis based solely on (in the words of columnist Ruben Navarette) their "brown skin and Spanish accents."  As a result members of the Latino community --whether they are U.S. citizens or foreign-born, whether they are legal immigrants or  undocumented--feel under siege.

Most recently, of February 4, after making sure to alert the media, Arpaio reportedly paraded approximately 200 suspected illegal immigrants in shackles to a segregated area of his "tent city" county facility, where they will supposedly remain until they are adjudicated and have served any sentences they face for local violations.  The NEW YORK TIMES described this conduct as "ritual humiliation."  The men who Arpaio is displaying like trophies are reportedly in pretrial detention, not having been convicted of any crime.

Through the years, Arpaio's actions have triggered numerous civil rights lawsuits, including federal action in the 1990's and a recent lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for racial proviling of Latino citizens and legal residents.  Howeverl, his repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants.  There are several tools at the federal government's disposal to address these allegations, and we urge their prompt consideration and application.

For instance, Section 210401 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. 14141), prohibits a "pattern or practice of conduct by law envorscemtn officers ... that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States" and authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions to prevent such practices.  The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, or "CRIPA", (42 U.S.C. 1997) authorizes the Attorney General to conduct investigations and litigation relating to conditions of confinement in state or locally operated institutions to determine whether there is a pattern or practice of violations of residnets' federal rights.

Page Two

Section 242 of Title 18 of the U.S. code prohibits anyone from acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.  Prior Administrations hve undertaken a police misconduct initiative within the Civil Rights Division to coordinate enforcement of these civil and criminal civil rights statutes, and we hope that such cooperation will once again be a hallmark of the Department's civil rights enforcement efforts in the coming years.

Mr. Attorney General, we request that you direct the Special Litigation and Criminal Sections of the Civil Rights Division to undertake a federal investigation into the actions of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, under the authority of 42 U.S.C.14141, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Perons Act (CRIPA),  18 U.S.C. 242, and any other applicable federal statutes or Constitutional provisions.

Madam Secretary, we request that you review Maricopa County's agreements with the Department of Homeland Security under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and take such action as necessary to ensure that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office conforms to the terms of that agdreement and that such agreement is not used to justify the racial profiling of any resident of Arizona.  We urge that such agreement be terminated if the situation cannot be remedied.  We further request that you immediately provide to the Committee a copy of any agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and the County, whether under Section 287 (g) or any other provision of law, such as intergovernmental service agreements to house apprehended immigrants.

Please keep us informed regarding any developments in respons to this request.  Specifically we would like to know what actions your Departments will take to ensure that Hispanic residents of Maricopa county are not subjected to racial proviling, unequal treatment at the hands of Sheriff's Department personnel, or violations of generally accepted standards of confinement.  Responses and questions should be directed to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515 (tel: 202-225-3951; fax 202-225-7680.  We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this important matter.


John Conyers, Jr.
Committee on the Judiciary

Zoe Lofgren
Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Immigration,
Citizenship, Regugees, Border Security, and
International Law

Jerrold Nadler
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil
Rights and Civil Liberties

Robert C. "Bobby" Scott
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and
Homeland Security


Honorable Lamar S. Smith
Honorable Howard Coble
Honorable James F. Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Honorable Louie Gohmert

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