File this one in the “no surprise” files. On Friday, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Sheriff Joe Arpaio singled out Latinos in his crackdowns on undocumented immigrants.
In addition to finding that Arpaio’s office systematically singled out Latinos in Maricopa County, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled that Maricopa County Sheriff deputies detained Latino suspects who were stopped for traffic violations for unreasonable periods of time. Arpaio and his deputies are now prevented permanently from detaining Latinos on the basis of believing that they are in the country illegally and from using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant.
Friday’s ruling is the result of a class action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) that was heard in court last summer. Attorneys for Arpaio claimed that ethnicity and race did not play a role in how he and his deputies policed in Maricopa County, although racist letters from Maricopa County residents urging Arpaio to go to certain areas within his jurisdiction were presented in court. Arpaio even urged his deputies to “go after illegals, not the crime first.”
Judge Snow’s decision found that Arpaio and his office violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Fourth Amendment relates to searches and seizures, and the Fourteenth Amendment relates to due process and equal protection.
The Western Regional Counsel for MALDEF, Nancy Ramirez, offered this statement after the ruling was announced, “The voices of Sheriff Arpaio’s racial profiling victims have been heard. Today’s decision vindicates Maricopa County community members who have long suffered from the Sheriff’s discriminatory and illegal practices. We look forward to seeing much needed reforms implemented at the MCSO.”
The 81 year old Arpaio is currently being targeted in a recall effort. In November, he was elected to his sixth term as the Sheriff of the Maricopa County.