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Feds Sue Arizona Sheriff in Civil Rights Investigation

The controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., is being sued by the feds, who say he isn’t cooperating with an investigation into whether he discriminates against Hispanics. It’s the third suit the Justice Department has filed over Arizona’s immigration policies.

You can’t say the feds didn’t give advance warning. Last month, the Justice Department threatened to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio if he kept up with his refusals to cooperate with an ongoing civil rights investigation into whether he discriminates against Hispanics. Now, a suit has been filed against both the sheriff and his office.

Arpaio, famous for his controversial tactics, including sweeps through immigrant-heavy neighborhoods, told The Arizona Republic that he and his office have been cooperating with the feds and had not been targeting Hispanics.

"These actions make it abundantly clear that Arizona, including this Sheriff, is Washington's new whipping boy. Now it's time to take the gloves off," Arpaio said in a statement released Thursday afternoon (PDF). "The Obama administration intended to sue us all along, no matter what we did to try to avert it."

The latest lawsuit (PDF) is the third the Department of Justice has filed against entities within Arizona for what it claims are discriminatory practices relating to immigration.

Earlier this week, the agency sued a network of community colleges in the Phoenix-area. It claimed that Maricopa Community Colleges required newly hired non-citizens "to present additional work authorization documents beyond those required by law," without imposing the same requirements on U.S. citizens. Here’s the DOJ:

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to treat authorized workers in the same manner during the hiring process, regardless of their citizenship status. Yet, Maricopa Community Colleges imposed different and greater documentary requirements on at least 247 non-U.S. citizens, and did not end this practice until January 2010, well after the Justice Department initiated its investigation.

A Maricopa Community Colleges spokesman declined to comment on this matter to The Washington Post and other news outlets.

In early July, the Justice Department filed suit against Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer, challenging the constitutionality of the state's immigration law. A recent State Department report (PDF) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights — intended as a "partial snapshot of the current human rights situation in the United States, including some of the areas where problems persist in our society" — also made mention of the law:

A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world. The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brewer protested the mention of Arizona in the report and called for its removal (PDF). In it, she defended her administration and said it was “unconstitutional” for the federal government to submit state laws to the United Nations for “review,” which she called “internationalism run amok.”

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