The Obama administration on Tuesday said it was preparing to sue Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department for violating civil rights laws by improperly targeting Latinos in a bid to crack down on illegal immigrants.

The sheriff’s high-profile crackdown on illegal immigrants has helped thrust the issue onto the national political stage with some states passing tough new laws aimed at pushing out those in the country illegally.

The administration’s Justice Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have been in settlement talks for months over allegations that officers regularly made unlawful stops and arrests of Latinos, used excessive force against them and failed to adequately protect the Hispanic community.

Those negotiations have broken down because of a fight over the Justice Department’s demand that an independent monitor be appointed by a federal court to oversee compliance with the settlement, which has now reached 128 pages in draft form, according to the Obama administration.

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