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Federal Judge Delivers Tough Blow to “America’s Toughest Sheriff” (June 2013)

More than eight months after hearing testimony in the civil trial, a U.S. District Judge has found that Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in racial profiling against Hispanic drivers and passengers.  According to the decision , the MCSO, led by Sheriff Arpaio, used traffic stops as an excuse to identify and report individuals who are in the country without authorization and considered an individual’s Latino identity as a factor in determining whether to investigate that person’s immigration status.  

The statistical analysis of the MCSO’s traffic stops showed higher stop rates and longer stop times for Latinos, which highlighted a pattern of racial discrimination. The federal district court determined that Arpaio’s immigration enforcement policies and practices violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures) and Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Arizona Constitution. Accordingly, the MCSO was ordered to stop using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in stopping vehicles or making law enforcement decisions related to whether an individual may be in the country without authorization. A hearing will be held on June 14, 2013 to determine the specific steps the MCSO needs to take to ensure compliance with the court’s order. An attorney for Sheriff Arpaio’s office has indicated that the MCSO will abide by the court’s ruling but plans to appeal the decision.  

This is not the only legal challenge to Arpaio’s enforcement policies. On May 10, 2012, the Department of Justice filed a separate lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County for allegedly engaging in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination against Latinos. This case remains pending. Hopefully, these court actions will serve as a deterrent, not only for Sheriff Arpaio, but for other local and state law enforcement agencies who are overstepping the bounds of their authority in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

 

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