Immigration News: Federal Judge Says Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Office Profiles Latinos
On May 24, 2013, a federal judge issued a ruling in a landmark immigration case. The case was brought against the United States' toughest sheriff and accused him of singling out Latinos. In a 142-page decision, United States District Judge Murray Snow decided that the agency was racially profiling individuals during immigration patrols. The Phoenix-based courtroom effectively backs up years of accusations by critics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio that his offers regularly violated the constitutional rights of Latinos that they suspected were illegal immigrants.

The latest ruling arrives eight months after a non-jury trial of Arpaio's deputies. Eight months ago, the seven-day trial ruled that the sheriff and his deputies detained people for unnecessarily long times once they were pulled over.

For immigration activists, the ruling is a victory. These individuals were not seeking compensation and just wanted the office of Arpaio to state that it engaged in racial profiling. Detractors of Sheriff Arpaio also wanted him to adopt policy changes. In the lawsuit, a group of Latinos alleged that deputies pulled over cars on a routine basis to perform checks for illegal immigrants. Due to these alleged checks, the group wanted a judge to issue an injunction that would stop them from occurring. At the end of the case, the judge ruled that additional injunctions or measures could be ordered in the future. Arpaio's attorney stated that they would appeal the ruling within 30 days.

The lead lawyer for the prosecution was Stanley Young. Young stated that Judge Snow was expected to set a hearing for June 14th. On this day, the judge will hear both sides of the case and figure out how the ruling will be carried out.

In the case, the group of Latinos accused Arpaio of acting on messages from residents of the area about darker skinned people meeting at a location or speaking in Spanish. In some instances, Arpaio responded to these complaints with thank-you letters. According to Arpaio's lawyer, there is nothing wrong with sending residents thank-you messages. Sheriff Arpaio responded to the allegations by stating that his deputies only pulled people over when they believed a crime had been committed.

The Result
Judge Snow's ruling on Friday effectively repudiates the immigration policies that have made Arpaio famous. In November, Sheriff Arpaio was elected for his sixth consecutive term. The 80-year old sheriff serves as the leading law enforcement official in Arizona's most populous area. During his tenure, Arpaio has developed a reputation for a tough approach toward immigration. According to detractors and the recent court case, Arpaio and his deputies frequently violated the civil rights of Latinos in the county. Arpaio is also famous for imprisoning inmates within tents and forcing them to wear pink undergarments.

Originally, Arpaio began working on immigration in 2006. He rose to prominence amid voter frustration over illegal immigration. Arizona serves as the nation's largest entry point for illegal immigrants. This status led to frustrated voters in the area who elected Arpaio to office.

The Ruling
Judge Snow stated that officers could not detain individuals without facts that would create probable cause. Deputies must have reasonable suspicion that someone is violating federal or state law. Arpaio's deputies, according to the judge, are not allowed to pull people over or detain them based on their Hispanic ancestry or other racial profiling. Evidence in the trial indicated that the MCSO aggressively detained individuals and enforced immigration even when it did not have legal justification for doing so.

The Earlier Case
Eight months ago, a trial was conducted that focused on Latinos who were pulled over during traffic and immigration patrols. These patrols were known as "sweeps". When a sweep occurs, deputies descend upon a section of the city. The area is normally comprised of Latino immigrants. Over a few days, the deputies pull over as many traffic violators as possible. Out of 1,500 people arrested in 20 sweeps, 57 percent were residing in the nation illegally. These arrests occurred in a time period starting in January of 2008.

During the trial, witnesses collapsed into tears as they described each encounter with authorities. The witnesses stated that they were detained because they were Hispanic and not because of any traffic violation. Officers allegedly sought to check their immigration status. With each witness, the sheriff's legal team sought to dispute this characterization.

To support their case, the plaintiff's lawyers showed figures that indicated that more Latinos were stopped during sweeps than on other days. Emails from the sheriff and deputies were circulated that contained offensive jokes about Latinos. The defense sought to negate the impact of these statistics by disputing each figure. The defense's legal team also stated that the individuals who made the jokes received disciplining. In addition, the defense denied that racially-based complaints from residents prompted any sweeps or action.

For the defense, some of the things Arpaio stated in the past proved to be detrimental. The prosecution used interviews about illegal immigration and comments made by Arpaio in news conferences against him. In one quote, Arpaio stated that deputies did not have to follow state laws when pulling immigrants over. Arpaio notably said that their program was to "go after illegals, not the crime first". In the ruling, the judge noted that some of the cars were pulled over because the deputies saw the vehicle pick up Latino day laborers.

Despite stating that racial profiling was not used, Arpaio and his deputies used darker skin to systematically target one group of people. Now that the trial is over, Arpaio's office has to figure out how to comply with the ruling. A hearing on June 14th will ensure that the defense complies with all of the required changes. During the next 30 days, Arpaio's defense team also plans on filing an appeal to Judge Snow's ruling.

Last reviewed on: 05/25/2013
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