Joe Arpaio's Sheriff Department Racially Profiled Latinos, Court Finds

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on May 28, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal court ruled that Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies racially profiled Latinos while on immigration patrols in the Arizona county, reports The New York Times.

The ruling is a major blow to the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” who has become the poster child of Arizona’s strict approach to immigration enforcement. The lawsuit was brought by a group of Latinos who alleged they were racially profiled by Arpaio’s deputies as targets for raids and traffic stops.

Arpaio’s attorneys plan to appeal the federal judge’s ruling in the next 30 days.

Race discrimination and racial profiling by law enforcement violates the Constitution. It's against federal law in a variety of situations.

In this case, Judge G. Murray Snow of United States District Court found Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies were pulling over and singling out people who are dark skinned and speak Spanish to check their immigration status.

Instead of monetary damages, the group asked for the judge to declare the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had engaged in racial profiling and to order policy changes.

According to the ruling, the sheriff's office can't use "race or Latino ancestry" as a factor at all in deciding to stop any vehicle with Latino occupants, or as a factor in deciding whether they may be in the country without authorization.

It also prohibits deputies from reporting a vehicle's Latino occupants to federal immigration authorities or detaining, holding or arresting them, unless there is more than just a "reasonable belief" that they are in the country illegally. To detain them, the deputies need to also have reasonable suspicion that the occupants are violating the state's human-trafficking and employment laws or committing other crimes.

Cecillia Wang, director of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that spearheaded the lawsuit, said, "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."

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