The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the Justice Department to review how the millions of federal dollars given to Maricopa County in the past decade have been used by the controversial “Sheriff Joe.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday, asking the department to investigate if any of the $25 million in taxpayer dollars given to the county since 2000 have been used to discriminate against individuals jailed in the county prison. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces a lawsuit from the Civil Rights Division that alleges a pattern of discrimination against Latinos, including those in detention.
The county received the funds under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses state agencies for costs associated with detaining undocumented immigrants in their facilities. If the department finds the funds have been used improperly, Leahy urged Holder to consider ways the funds can be recovered from the county.
“Like all federal grantees… Maricopa County officials must be held to high standards of ethical and lawful conduct when applying for and using such public funding,” Leahy wrote. “In light of the findings in your report, I urge the Department to take all appropriate steps to determine whether taxpayer dollars provided through the SCAAP program have been used in connection with the detention of individuals whose civil rights have been violated.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revoked the agency’s federal jailing agreement with the county in December. The 287(g) model functionally gives state and local law enforcement officers authority similar to that of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, including immigration status checks.