Feathered Bastard

House Judiciary Committee Presses Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano to Investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio

In what may be a watershed moment in the battle to end Sheriff Joe Arpaio's anti-Hispanic pogroms and his abuse of his federal 287(g) authority, the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee is pressing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security czar Janet Napolitano to investigate Sheriff Joe and to make sure his use of his 287(g) power to enforce immigration law, "is not used to justify the racial profiling of any resident of Arizona." 

Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), along with other members of the House committee that has jurisdiction over both Holder and Napolitano's departments, made the request in a strongly worded letter dated February 12. The letter is highly critical of Arpaio's media stunts, such as the "200 Mexican March," which took place last week, wherein Arpaio brought back the bugbear of racial and ethnic segregation after several decades of it being declared unconstitutional.

The letter also cites Arpaio's sweeps of Latino communities, as well as the recent MALDEF/ACLU lawsuit brought against the MCSO for racial profiling, and notes that "Arpaio's actions have triggered numerous civil rights lawsuits." Yet, the committee states that our corrupt top cop's "repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of the residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants."

The correspondence references several federal laws that Arpaio may have run afoul of, such as Section 242 of Title 18 of the U.S.Code, which "prohibits anyone from acting under the color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

As for the 287(g) agreement, under which Arpaio has 160 federally trained thugs ready to do his bidding, the committee indicates that if Napolitano cannot get Arpaio to comply with the dictates of that agreement, then, "We urge that such agreement be terminated..."

The press release issued today announcing the letter is even more forceful in its condemnation of Arpaio's actions.

"Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable." Chairman Conyers is quoted as stating concerning Joe. "Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement."

Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-California) declared that, "The basic premise of our justice system is that people are innocent until proven otherwise...I'm concerned that in Maricopa County that basic premise appears to have been turned upside down and that Latino members of community are considered `undocumented' until proven otherwise. That's not how our Constitution works and it's time for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to take a closer look."

Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) didn't hold back either:

"We cannot tolerate vigilantes using the police power to violate the fundamental rights of anyone they can get their hands on. Sheriff Arpaio has consistently abused his office in violation of federal law. It is time for the federal government to step in and uphold the rule of law in this country, even in Maricopa County."

Finally, those in Congress with oversight over the DOJ and DHS have heard the cries of the oppressed in Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County. Now is the time to keep the pressure on to ensure that swift action follows. If Holder and Napolitano do not respond with the appropriate speed and force, then Congress should hold hearings and subpoena Arpaio to testify. It's long since past time for him to be held accountable for his reign of terror and error. There's no elected official in this state with the gonads to challenge him. So only the federal government can finally make him comply with the law or face the consequences

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons