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CROSS-POST: Judge rules against ‘America’s toughest sheriff’ in racial profiling lawsuit


Imagine 2050 Staff • May 25, 2013

By Tim Gaynor and David Schwartz for Reuters | Originally posted on May 24, 2013

(Reuters) – Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio violated the constitutional rights of Latino drivers in his crackdown on illegal immigration, a federal judge found on Friday, and ordered him to stop using race as a factor in law enforcement decisions.

The ruling against the Maricopa County sheriff came in response to a class-action lawsuit brought by Hispanic drivers that tested whether police can target illegal immigrants without racially profiling U.S. citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin. 

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ruled that the sheriff’s policies violated the drivers’ constitutional rights and ordered Arpaio’s office to cease using race or ancestry as a grounds to stop, detain or hold occupants of vehicles – some of them in crime sweeps dubbed “saturation patrols.”

“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,” Snow said in a written ruling.

He added that race had factored into which vehicles the deputies decided to stop, and into who they decided to investigate for immigration violations.

The lawsuit contended that Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” and his officers violated the constitutional rights of both U.S. citizens and legal immigrants alike in their zeal to crack down on people they believe to be in the country illegally.

The ruling came days after a U.S. Senate panel approved a landmark comprehensive immigration legislation that would usher in the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation if passed by Congress.

The bill would put 11 million immigrants without legal status on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the porous southwestern border with Mexico.

Arpaio declined to comment on the ruling. An attorney representing the sheriff’s office said his clients were “deeply disappointed by the ruling” and would lodge an appeal.

“The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has always held the position that they never have used race and never will use race in making a law enforcement decision,” attorney Tim Casey told Reuters.

“We do disagree with the findings and my clients do intend to appeal, but at the same time … we will work with the court and with the opposing counsel to comply fully with the letter and the spirit of this order,” he added.

For more on this story, click here.

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