Activists Laud Justice Dept. for Investigating Sheriff

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Controversial Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio is being investigated by the Department of Justice, Arizona media reported this morning (and I just confirmed). Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, has garnered national renown for his tough enforcement of immigration laws and, as activist groups have become more concerned with his activities, he has come to signify a brewing immigration controversy--the first under President Obama's new administration.

Coincidentally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), along with the leaders of several activist groups and a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, were scheduled to hold a rally today at the Capitol calling for Arpaio to be investigated (they were to present a petition to that effect that had gathered over 35,000 signatures). They'll still hold the rally, intending to demonstrate community support for the investigation.

And they're pretty happy about the DoJ's decision:"It's very unlikely under the Bush administration that this would have happened," Paco Fabian, communications director for immigration-focused group America's Voice and an organizer of today's rally, told me. "We welcome the news that this is happening."

Beyond the investigation, activist groups like America's Voice want a review of agreements between the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcers that federal immigration laws can be enforced at the local level--a policy Arpaio reportedly uses in his office, and one that some activists don't like. It will be up to the Obama administration to review that policy.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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