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Sixty percent of the nearly 1,000 people arrested in the sweeps since early 2008 have been illegal immigrants. Thursday’s dragnet led to four arrests, but it wasn’t clear if any of them were illegal immigrants.

Critics say deputies racially profile Hispanics. Arpaio says deputies approach people only when they have probable cause.

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some other folks there decided they can make a name for themselves in terms of the intensity of the efforts they’re using,” said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the pro-immigrant Immigration Policy Center. “There’s no way to deny that. There are a lot of people getting caught up in these efforts.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation of his office nearly 17 months ago over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures. Although the department has declined to detail its investigation, Arpaio believes it centers on his sweeps.

Arpaio feels no reservations about continuing to push the sweeps, even after the federal government stripped his power to let 100 deputies make federal immigration arrests.

Unable to make arrests under a federal statute, the sheriff instead relied on a nearly 5-year-old state law that prohibits immigrant smuggling. He has also raided 37 businesses in enforcing a state law that prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

“I’m not going to brag,” Arpaio said. “Just look at the record. I’m doing what I feel is right for the people of Maricopa County.”