The Justice Department began its civil-rights investigation of Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2008 and publicly disclosed the probe in March 2009 after months of complaints alleging that sheriff’s deputies targeted Latino residents. The probe was stalled for 17 months after sheriff’s officials refused to turn over records to investigators. Arpaio is accused of using the crime sweeps to enforce the state’s anti-smuggling law and the worksite enforcement efforts to target employees suspected of identity theft and fraud. The sweeps have in the past led to dozens of sheriff’s deputies descending on heavily Latino neighborhoods looking for minor infractions as a way to launch into immigration screenings, though the scope of the sweeps have broadened since federal-immigration officials in 2009 took away Arpaio’s authority to perform street-level enforcement as part of a federal program.
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