Racial Profiling Class Action Suit Against Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County (Phoenix, AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who instituted such ridiculous shaming punishments as forcing male inmates to wear pink underwear, making juveniles serve on chain gangs and bury the dead, and requiring inmates to sleep in tents, is the subject of a new class action lawsuit by the ACLU and others for racial profiling of Latinos.
The suit alleges Arpaio has been conducting "crime suppression sweeps" of Latinos in an effort to enforce federal immigration laws.
Claiming authority under a limited agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE that actually prohibits the practices challenged here, Defendants have launched a series of massive so-called "crime suppression sweeps" that show a law enforcement agency operating well beyond the bounds of the law.
During these sweeps, which have shown no signs of abating since Defendants began them in September 2007, large numbers of MCSO officers and volunteer "posse" members under Defendants’ direction and control have targeted Latino persons for investigation of immigration status, using pretextual and unfounded stops, racially motivated questioning, searches and other mistreatment, and often baseless arrests. Defendants’ pattern and practice of racial profiling goes beyond these sweeps to include widespread, day-to-day targeting and mistreatment of persons who appear to be Latino
The case is Ortega Melendres, et al. v. Arpaio, et al. -and the Amended complaint is here. (pdf)
From the press release:
"In this country we value fairness and equality. There's nothing fair or equal about armed deputies pulling people over and treating them differently because of the color of their skin," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda. "Sheriff Arpaio does not have the right to profile people because they look Latino regardless of their immigration status. His job is to uphold the law, not violate people's rights."
Sheriff Arpaio has made no secret that he believes physical appearance alone is sufficient reason to stop and question individuals regarding their immigration status. Arpaio has also touted the fact that he has directed his deputies to target people they perceive as immigrants in so-called "crime suppression sweeps" in Latino neighborhoods and areas where Latinos work as day laborers.
MCSO's rampant racial profiling has created a culture of fear in Maricopa County. Latinos in the community have good reason to worry that a trip to the grocery store or to work will end with interrogation by armed officers on the roadside and possible incarceration at the county jail.
The Mayor of Phoenix previously requested a Justice Department investigation of Arpaio. The ACLU says:
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has denounced Sheriff Arpaio and last April, after the MCSO engaged in sweeps in the town of Guadalupe, Gordon formally requested that U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey launch a Justice Department investigation into Sheriff Arpaio's and the MCSO's "discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests" of Latino persons in Maricopa County. Gordon has also publicly stated that the sweeps are interfering with the work of undercover city police officers and federal agents.
"Police should not be in the business of acting as immigration agents; everyone's safety is jeopardized when they do," said MALDEF staff attorney Kristina Campbell. "In Maricopa County, as in other parts of the country, when local police try to take on the job of being immigration officers, immigrants and their family members often get the message that they should fear coming forward if they are the victim or witness of a crime."
Arapaio doesn't care:
"As charges of discrimination have mounted, Sheriff Arpaio has only dug in his heels, and the federal government has thus far done nothing to rein him in," said Robin Goldfaden, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Unfortunately, court intervention is necessary for the Constitution to be upheld."
Hopefully this lawsuit will garner some attention and a judge will care.
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