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DOJ Report: "America's Toughest Sheriff" Violated Civil Rights

Arizona sheriff and Gov. Rick Perry endorser Joe Arpaio allegedly engaged in discriminatory law enforcement practices and racial profiling of Latinos, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who gave Gov. Rick Perry his coveted GOP presidential endorsement last month, allegedly engaged in discriminatory law enforcement practices and racial profiling of Latinos, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the 22-page report, the department’s Civil Rights Division alleges that Arpaio — known by the moniker "America's Toughest Sheriff" for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration — and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office created an enforcement program that treated all Latinos as if they were undocumented, which the report says may have affected the office’s investigations into homicides and sexual assaults. 

Perry's staff couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Until he endorsed Perry, Arpaio's support was widely sought by Republican presidential contenders seeking to shore up their tough-on-immigration, tough-on-crime credentials. Arpaio was a vocal supporter of Arizona’s SB 1070, the controversial immigration enforcement legislation that has been halted by a federal lawsuit. Arapio has also gained national notoriety for his unconventional practices of dealing with inmates, including housing them in tents, making them wear pink underwear and running an online “Mugshot of the Day” contest. 

Today's report prompted the Department of Homeland Security to restrict Maricopa County — Arizona's largest, with more than 3.8 million people — from participating in the federal Secure Communities program, which seeks to detain and deport undocumented criminals from the country. DHS officials have also now canceled a partnership with the sheriff’s office to conduct immigration monitoring and enforcement in Maricopa County.

The report requires Maricopa County to begin working with the federal government on ways to remedy the identified violations by January 2012, or else face a federal court order.

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