The crackdown by Phoenix’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s on illegal immigrants could get greater scrutiny from federal investigators under President-elect Barack Obama’s administration, says the Arizona Republic. Obama’s top choice to head the U.S. Justice Department, Eric Holder, has a track record of investigating the kind of racial-profiling allegations leveled at Arpaio’s crime and immigration sweeps. Arpaio denies his deputies stop or arrest people based on race.
With Obama, “I expect that the rules will change somewhat and you will probably see a more active role of the Justice Department investigating cases of police misconduct across the board,” said Michael Smith, chairman of the criminology and criminal-justice department at the University of South Carolina. In April, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon asked for a Justice Department investigation of immigration crackdowns. Arrest logs from eight crime sweeps showed that deputies arrested more Latinos than non-Latinos during each of the operations. Says Gordon: “The ball for civil rights has started rolling, and I’m confident that under soon-to-be Attorney General Holder, it will be rolling faster here and across the nation.”