Probe Sought of Arpaio Actions; Use of Federal Funding in Arizona Racial Profiling at Issue

Article excerpt


The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether the office of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio used federal grant money to illegally detain Hispanics, whom the government alleges were the victims of racial profiling.

If so, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, wants the Justice Department to consider ways of getting the money back - a total that could exceed $25 million.

I urge the department to take all appropriate steps to determine whether taxpayer dollars .. have been used in connection with the detention of individuals whose civil rights have been violated, wrote Mr Leahy in a letter Tuesday to Mr. Holder.

Mr. Leahy said the Justice Department has estimated that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Phoenix has received more than $25 million since 2000 under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) as reimbursement for the costs related to the detention of illegal immigrants.

Last week the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Arpaio alleging, among other things, that the sheriff and his deputies abused Hispanic inmates and engaged in ethnic profiling.

The lawsuit charges discriminatory and unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Hispanics who are frequently detained and arrested on the basis of race, color or national origin; discriminatory jail practices against Hispanic inmates with limited English skills; and illegal retaliation against critics.

The charges against America's self-described toughest sheriff came in the wake of a breakdown of negotiations between the Justice Department and the sheriff's office over the appointment of a court monitor, who would have overseen the office's handling of those it arrests and detains, and directed operations regarding its enforcement programs and actions. …