http://cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=44899 (CNSNews.com) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona following requests by congressional Democrats and allegations by liberal activists that the department has violated the civil rights of illegal aliens. Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Robert Scott (D-Va.) requested the investigation, and activists groups such as National Day Laborer Organizer Network and ACORN launched petition drives and rallies in support of the probe. The investigation focuses on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and dozens of officers under his command who were trained through the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS), which partners federal and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws. (The Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division is known popularly as ICE.) In a letter dated March 10, 2009, Loretta Smith, acting assistant attorney general at the DOJ, detailed what her department would be investigating: "This is to inform you that the United States Department of Justice is commencing an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (''MCSO'') pursuant to the pattern or practice provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,42 U.S.C. §14141 ("Section 14141") and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968,42 U.S.C. § 3789d ("Safe Streets Act"), and pursuant to the prohibitions against national origin discrimination in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d to 2000d-7 ("Title Yr') and the Safe Streets Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c)." The letter continues: "The investigation will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals." "In conducting the investigation, we will seek to determine whether there are violations of the above laws by the MCSO," the letter says. Sheriff Arpaio's efforts to enforce immigration laws have been the focus of previous criticism, but Arpaio has defended his department and the results his ICE-trained officers have netted. Concerning the DOJ’s investigation, Arpaio told CNSNews.com: “I will not back down. What I am doing is upholding the laws of the state of Arizona, and I will not be persuaded to turn my back on my oath of office as sheriff of this county.” In an August 2008 press release, Arpaio's office detailed those results. "While the Sheriff’s illegal immigration and human smuggling operations conducted on the streets and roadways here have netted nearly 2,300 arrests, another very successful effort to locate illegal aliens has been quietly happening inside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails," the release said. It continues: "Despite the growing criticism of the Sheriff’s illegal immigration fight by some valley politicians and activists, Sheriff Arpaio says 60 detention officers trained by ICE officials have conducted over 106,000 interviews and investigations of inmates booked into jail since April of 2007. "In those 18 months, 16,000 inmates were determined to be illegal aliens. Either they have already been deported or will be deported after being tried and/or serving their sentences for crimes committed in the valley. The work being done be Arpaio’s detention staff is a likely contributor to the recent reduction in crime in the valley,” the press release added. "That number of 16,000 represents a full one-third (1/3) of all inmates in the United States who have had holds placed on them after being identified by jail or prison officials as illegal aliens." The press release goes on to say that 20 percent of inmates in the Maricopa County Jail are illegal aliens and that of those, 2,000 illegal aliens - 70 percent - were arrested for felony crimes. Those felony crimes committed included the following: forgery, 12 percent; kidnapping, 10 percent; aggravated assault, 7 percent; driving under the influence, 7 percent; drug charges, 27 percent; robbery, 3 percent; murder, 3 percent; and theft, 4 percent. The Democratic Congress members have also asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to launch an investigation into the training provided by ICE.