Phoenix, Arizona -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued subpoenas against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) late Thursday in relation to a civil rights lawsuit that Arpaio believes ACORN helped instigate against him.
For months, Arpaio and ACORN have been at odds over immigration enforcement conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) under 287(g) agreements with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Earlier this year, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis demanded that Arpaio step down. Then in June, she and Reverand Al Sharpton traveled to Phoenix to protest against Arapio.
Regarding that visit to Phoenix, Arpaio says, "With all the recent revelations about ACORN, it wouldn’t surprise me
that they paid for Sharpton’s visit and are funding the protesters outside my office, and I’ll bet they are funding this frivolous lawsuit."
Arpaio believes that ACORN is partly responsible for a federal civil rights lawsuit (Melendres v. Arpaio) filed against him by Somos America and five individuals who allege that Arpaio targeted them because of their ethnicity. The lawsuit also alleges that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department (MCSO) engages in a pattern of racial profiling when conducting "neighborhood crime suppression sweeps" in Hispanic neighborhoods.
"I believe the organization used state and federal funds meant to help poor people to conduct a campaign against me and my officers,"said Arpaio. "These records will show, I believe, that ACORN is in bed with the anti-immigration enforcement organizations which continue to demonstrate in front of my office trying to thwart my officers from enforcing state and federal law."
When I spoke with Sandschafer late Thursday, ACORN had not yet seen the subpoena even though MCSO said it had been served. We learned why later: The subpoena meant for the Arizona ACORN office has not been served yet, and the subpoena meant for ACORN's headquarters was served on an organization in Washington, DC whose office happens to be located in the same building as ACORN's local Washington, DC office. Indeed, the MCSO press release says the subpoena meant for ACORN's headquarters was served by Arpaio's co-counsel in Washington, DC. The organization who received the subpoena promptly gave it to the ACORN office, but ACORN's headquarters is not in Washington, DC. ACORN is headquartered in Louisiana.
After obtaining a copy of the subpoena, Sandschafer noted, "The subpoena does not seek any of the information Arpaio listed in his press release, which focused on funding."
According to Sandschafer, instead of requesting financial records, the subpoena requests "any and all correspondence" related to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department and racial profiling that occurred between ACORN and third parties, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the office of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. The subpoena goes as far as naming specific employees of the ACLU.
"This is just another one of Arpaio's quasi-legal 'fishing expeditions'," says Sandschafer
Arpaio told local reporters Thursday evening, "I have a sneaking suspicion that ACORN is using federal taxpayer dollars to pursue their own agenda because they don't like me."
Sandschafer proudly confirmed, "Arizona ACORN has been a leader in the campaign to end the racial profiling, civil rights abuses and harassment and intimidation being perpetrated on our Latino communities every day at the hands of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies in Maricopa County. In part, as a result of our work, Sheriff Arpaio is now under investigation by the US Justice Department."
Sandschafter said although her group is proud of their opposition to racial profiling policies, they are not affiliated with the civil rights lawsuit against Arpaio.
Arpaio says that after he reviews the records obtained from the subpoenas, he will make a decision regarding who, if anyone, at ACORN should be deposed.
These subpoenas come at the end of a difficult week for ACORN, when secretly filmed videos were released to the press showing ACORN employees advising a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute. Arpaio commented on the controversy, saying, "Apparently, ACORN’s scorn is not only for immigration laws. It seems to have little regard for several other areas of the law given what the video cameras have recorded in the last few weeks. I assume ACORN will have its hands full cleaning up this mess and less time to travel to Maricopa County."
ACORN was founded in 1970 to organize primarily in low-income areas, and the organization currently has nearly half a million members.