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WASHINGTON – On the heels of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s challenge of Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency, the Obama administration announced today it’s preparing to sue the Arizona elected official for alleged civil-rights violations against Latinos in a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The administration’s Justice Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have been in settlement talks for months over Obama administration allegations that officers made unlawful stops and arrests of Latinos, used excessive force against them and failed to adequately protect the Hispanic community.

Those negotiations broke down about the time Arpaio held a news conference in Phoenix announcing that preliminary findings of a six-month law-enforcement probe found the birth certificate Obama posted on the White House website was fraudulent.

“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” Roy Austin, deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a letter to the lawyer for Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Austin said in the letter that Arpaio’s team demanded that a meeting slated for tomorrow include for the first time negotiations over the monitor and previously had demanded that the Justice Department provide more details about its findings.

“MCSO’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations requires us to prepare for civil (court) action,” Austin said. He added that the Justice Department has recently discovered more information about the “failure to reasonably investigate sex crimes” by Arpaio’s office.

The Justice Department in a December report outlined numerous alleged civil rights violations, including that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latinos by Arpaio’s force.

The sheriff has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and lashed out at the Obama administration for targeting his department and failing to deal with the problem of illegal immigration with some 11.5 million believed to be in the United States.

In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, Arpaio said the appointment of a monitor would force him to abdicate responsibility for his police force, including decisions about policies, operations, jail programs and enforcement.

“To the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say: This will not happen, not on my watch!” Arpaio said in the statement.

Arpaio announced today his investigation of Obama was expanding into election irregularities in 2008, based on claims by supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, then Obama’s challenger for the Democratic nomination.

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