Sheriff hands over documents in bias probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2011 7:58 PM
Sheriff hands over documents in bias probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Arizona sheriff has turned over documents sought by the Justice Department in a probe of whether his police force discriminated against Hispanics in a crackdown on illegal immigrants, the agency said Thursday.

Ending a nine-month fight in which the Obama administration sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Justice Department said it had reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and conducted more than 220 interviews.

Arpaio also submitted to two interviews himself and provided access to his staff, inmates and the county's facilities, according to the settlement filed in federal court in Arizona Thursday.

"We are pleased that since the filing of our lawsuit, the sheriff's office has reversed course and provided the department with information we have been seeking," said Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division.

Representatives for Arpaio were not immediately available for comment.

Arpaio has conducted regular arrest sweeps to try to round up illegal immigrants and smugglers in the state that has borne the brunt of people trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico.

Hispanic activists, civic authorities and civil rights activists have criticized Arpaio's sweeps as tantamount to racial profiling, a charge Arpaio has denied.

Arpaio's crackdown on illegal immigrants has helped thrust the issue to the forefront nationally. The Obama administration went to court last year to block a strict new Arizona law against illegal immigration that the state passed in April.

The Justice Department had been in negotiations with Arpaio to obtain documents related to the crackdown as well as access to the county's jails, but those talks broke down and the agency filed a lawsuit to compel his cooperation.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Peter Cooney)