A federal judge ruled that any Latino stopped by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies since January 1, 2007, or any Latino who will be stopped in the future, can sue the Sheriff’s Office in a racial profiling class action lawsuit. The ruling also enjoins the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from detaining any person based only on the belief that that person might be in the country illegally. It’s the latest in a series of legal defeats for Arpaio and the hostile Arizona immigration law he spearheaded.
The scope of the proposed class the order allows is staggering and gives a clear message that harassment of Latino’s, based on an unconstitutional “suspicion” that they are engaging in some kind of unlawful activity, or that their status is somehow unlawful, will not be tolerated.
Arpaio’s lawyers had argued that enjoining the ability to stop Latino’s based on this suspicion would hamper the ability of the sheriff’s office to perform basic law enforcement tasks. Specifically the lawyers argued that enjoining those powers would make it impossible for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and law enforcement in general, to enforce the state’s human-smuggling law. That law is how Arpaio justifies patrol where only Latino’s are detained to check immigration status on other possible offenses.
Which is why SB 1070, and its spawn of copy-cat legislation, has come under such direct constitutional scrutiny. The practices detailed by Arpaio in both the federal and state investigations show a blatant pattern and practice of targeting Latino’s simply for being Latino. And that, in a nutshell, is racial profiling, a practice incompatible with a constitutional requirement of individualized suspicion.
I wonder how many court orders it will take before Arpaio and the others figure this out?
Photo from gageskidmore via flickr.
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