Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 13, 2009

Judiciary Committee members call for investigation of Arpaio

Judiciary Committee Members Call for Investigation of Sheriff Arpaio's Disregard for Rights of Hispanic Residents

For Immediate Release
February 13, 2009
Contact: Jonathan Godfrey (Conyers)
Pedro Riberio (Lofgren)
Ilan Kayatsky (Nadler)
Larry Dillard (Scott)

WASHINGTON - House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate allegations of misconduct by Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile... You're Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.

"Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable." said Conyers. "Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement."

"The basic premise of our justice system is that people are innocent until proven otherwise," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. "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."

"We cannot tolerate vigilantes using the police power to violate the fundamental rights of anyone they can get their hands on," said Nadler. "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." "Law enforcement is not a game or a reality show, it is a public trust," said Scott. "There is no excuse for callous indifference to the rights of the residents of Arizona, whether in their neighborhoods or as pretrial detainees."

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