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article imageSheriff Joe Arpaio racially profiled Latinos, federal judge rules

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 25, 2013 in Politics
A federal judge ruled Friday that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, violated the constitutional rights of Latino drivers in his campaign against illegal immigration and ordered him to stop using race as a factor in his immigration policing efforts.
The attorneys representing Arpaio have said the sheriff will file an appeal in the next 30 days.
Fox News notes that the ruling marks the first time that a court has found that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office employed racial profiling and systematically singled out people of Hispanic origin in their immigration patrols.
The ruling, according to Reuters, resulted from a class-action lawsuit brought by a group of Hispanic drivers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The plaintiffs seeking corrective action but no damages challenged the position that the sheriff's office could systematically target Hispanic illegal immigrants without racially profiling US citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin.
During the trials victims testified, saying that in routine and immigration "sweeps," sheriff's deputies pulled over their vehicles for immigration status checks only because they were Hispanics. They asked the court to stop the sheriff's office from engaging in discriminatory law enforcement procedures and relying on letters and emails from certain residents who complain about "dark skinned" people and others speaking Spanish found gathering in certain areas.
The lawyers also presented statistics which showed that Latinos were more likely to be stopped during the "sweeps." They also showed emails in which sheriff's deputies cracked offensive about Hispanics.
ABC News reports that Dan Pochoda, the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, said the ruling was a victory for Maricopa residents: "The sheriff's pronouncement that he's never been found to do anything wrong is going to have to go by the wayside."
The New York Times reports that Judge Murray Snow's 142-page decision strongly criticized Arpaio's immigration policies and practices, saying they violated the constitutional rights of citizens and legal residents.
He accused the sheriff of employing racial profiling and illegal detentions of people of Hispanic origin, pointing out that many of the people who suffered as a consequence of his policy were citizens and legal residents. Reuters reports Snow said in his ruling: "The great weight of the evidence is that all types of saturation patrols at issue in this case incorporated race as a consideration into their operations."
The judge ruled that although the sheriff's office did not consider its actions as constituting racial profiling the policies and practices confirmed that the deputies used "race as one factor among others."
According to Fox News, Snow said the "the evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration-related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so."
The ruling stopped the sheriff’s office from further using "Hispanic ancestry or race... in making law enforcement decisions pertaining to whether a person is authorized to be in the country." It also stopped deputies from detaining, holding or arresting people on the basis of their race in the absence of "further facts that would give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a violation of either federal criminal law or applicable state law is occurring."
Reuters reports that Arpaio declined comment after the ruling. However, Fox News reports that Tim Casey, the lead attorney representing Arpaio, said he would appeal in 30 days.
ABC News reports Casey said: "The MCSO is disappointed by the outcome in this decision. The MCSO's position is that it has never used race and will never use race in making its law-enforcement decisions."
Casey shifted the blame on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement whom he accused of providing "bad training." He said: "The decision here really affects some poor training from ICE and unfortunately we relied on ICE, acted on ICE, and now it turns out ICE was incorrect.'"
He said, however, that the sheriff's office would comply with the letter and spirit of the order.
Cecillia D. Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project and plaintiffs' counsel, hailed the ruling, describing it as "an important victory that will resound far beyond Maricopa County."
Wang said: "For too long the sheriff has been victimizing the people he's meant to serve with his discriminatory policy. Today we're seeing justice for everyone in the county."
Wang continued: "Singling people out for traffic stops and detentions simply because they're Latino is illegal and just plain un-American. Let this be a warning to anyone who hides behind a badge to wage their own private campaign against Latinos or immigrants that there is no exception in the Constitution for violating people's rights in immigration enforcement."
Reuters notes that in recent times Arpaio has faced several probes and lawsuits, including lawsuits brought by the US Attorney's Office in Arizona and another by the US Justice Department in relation to allegation of civil rights abuses.
Arizona is an immigration debate hotspot in the US providing the major entry routes for illegal immigrants. Republican Governor Jan Brewer authorized drastic action against immigration in 2010 which the federal government challenged on the grounds that it was the sole authority in immigration policy.
Arpaio, 81, was elected in November to his sixth consecutive term as Arizona sheriff. He is reported to have boasted about his immigration "sweeps" and "saturation patrols" in 2007, saying; "Ours is an operation, whether it's the state law or the federal, to go after illegals, not the crime first, that they happen to be illegals... My program, my philosophy is a pure program. You go after illegals. I'm not afraid to say that. And you go after them and you lock them up."
The ruling follows a US Senate panel approval of an immigration legislation that will allow drastic changes in immigration policy. The bill would allow 11 million immigrants without legal status to begin a 13-year process to citizenship.
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