The Common Good

Department of Justice Responds to Calls for Investigation of Arizona Sheriff

Source: Sojourners
Date: March 12, 2009

Contact: Jason Gedeik, Sojourners, (202) 745-4633, jgedeik@sojo.net

Department of Justice Responds to Calls for Investigation of Arizona Sheriff

Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform letter campaign draws attention to abuses and helps prompt government response

WASHINGTON, DC – March 12, 2009 — Sojourners, a progressive network of Christians promoting the biblical call to social justice, and convener of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), today applauded the recent decision by the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the “discriminatory policy practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).” This action follows the heels of a coordinated national campaign that Sojourners and CCIR participated in with ACORN, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and America’s Voice that collected over 38,000 letters petitioning Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate alleged civil rights violations of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“We’re encouraged by the overwhelming support from the faith community to hold our law enforcement officials accountable when they violate basic constitutional rights,” said Allison Johnson, campaign coordinator for CCIR.  “While the investigation of Sheriff Arpaio may take months, we must continue our collective efforts to uphold the civil rights and human dignity of immigrants in communities all across the country.”

Arpaio has been accused of racial profiling and repeated civil rights violations while arresting hundreds of undocumented workers in Arizona.  He has ordered his deputies to scour Latino neighborhoods looking for undocumented immigrants as part of a federal program that enables local officers to enforce federal immigration laws.  The sweeps have sparked two racial-profiling lawsuits while over 2,700 additional lawsuits have been filed against Sheriff Arpaio. This represents more than 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined. Along with an investigation of Sheriff Arpaio, Sojourners asks that the 287(g) partnership between Maricopa County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement be stopped and federal funding for Arpaio’s office be withdrawn.

According to Connie Andersen of Valley Interfaith Project, a Phoenix organization critical of the Sheriff, “this investigation is long overdue, and points to the need for a deeper conversation about immigration.  Arpaio represents what will happen elsewhere if we don’t embrace comprehensive immigration reform, especially in a time of economic fear and anxiety.  His demagoguery challenges us to reclaim our faith tradition of welcoming the stranger.”

The letter sent by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King to Sheriff Arpaio cited that the Department of Justice will investigate alleged “discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO,” among other alleged violations of federal law under the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The formal investigation also follows a request by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) for the Department of Justice to respond to the myriad of complaints of racial profiling in Maricopa County.

David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and a racial profiling expert called this the “first civil-rights investigation stemming from immigration enforcement” undertaken by the Department of Justice.

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About Christians For Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR)

CCIR represents a coalition of Christian organizations, churches, and leaders, from across the theological and political spectrum, united in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Despite our differences on other issues, we are working together to pass humane and comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible, because we share a set of common moral and theological principles that compel us to love and care for the stranger among us.

For more information about CCIR please visit: www.sojo.net/immigration