The Justice Department announced a deal Friday requiring Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to provide services in Spanish to his jail inmates, settling part of a two-year-old discrimination complaint the Obama administration filed against the man who styles himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”
Federal authorities will also become permanent overseers for all worksite raids, with the power to demand information about any raids that deputies perform. The Justice Department says it will scrutinize them to make sure they’re following the Constitution.
Still to come is a ruling by a court on charges that sheriff’s deputies discriminated in targeting Hispanics for traffic enforcement.
But Friday’s deal settles many of the complaints about how Sheriff Arpaio runs the county jails and how the county conducts its worksite raids.
“The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office changed many of their practices after the commencement of our litigation, and these agreements ensure that progress continues and the constitutional rights of the people of Maricopa County will be protected for the long term,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Kappelhoff said.
The case is the culmination of the Obama administration’s effort to push Sheriff Arpaio out of the business of enforcing laws against illegal immigrants, and federal authorities have been mostly successful.
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Sheriff Arpaio had already agreed to stop enforcing a controversial state identity theft law and to disband the Criminal Employment Unit, which had been the spearhead for those efforts.
If he wants to restart those operations, he’ll have to write up new procedures, get Justice Department approval of them and turn over information about any raids, including video, to federal authorities for review to make sure the actions were legal.
The sheriff’s office said it would comment “at the appropriate time” on the deal.
According to the terms of the 26-page settlement, Sheriff Arpaio also agreed to provide bilingual services for inmates and other members of the public, and will also make sure that classes for inmates are provided in Spanish and other appropriate languages.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed to the deal, binding the sheriff.
The Justice Department opened its case against Sheriff Arpaio years ago, at the height of the administration’s battle to keep states from trying to play a role in enforcing immigration laws.
Sheriff Arpaio, whose jurisdiction includes Phoenix, which was ground zero for the immigration debate at the time, had pushed for a role in enforcement, and had eagerly used a set of new laws the Arizona legislature passed to grant police a role in trying to push illegal immigrants out of the state.
Obama administration officials, though, accused the sheriff of discrimination.
The most contentious of their claims was that sheriff’s deputies targeted Hispanics for their traffic stops. That claim was not part of last week’s settlement, and Sheriff Arpaio will go to court next month to fight it.
As part of last week’s settlement, Sheriff Arpaio is also banned from retaliating against his critics.