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Arizona Sheriff Violated Latinos’ Rights, Judge Rules
By Edvard Pettersson – May 24, 2013 3:13 PM MT
Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, violated the constitutional rights of Latinos who were stopped and detained as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, a federal judge said.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued a decision today after a trial without a jury that ended Aug. 2.
“The evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration–related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so,” Snow said in his ruling. “Such policies have apparently resulted in the violation of this court’s own preliminary injunction.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of all Latinos who, since January 2007, have been stopped, detained, questioned or searched by sheriff office’s agents in Maricopa County. The civil rights case is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Chris Hegstrom, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling.
Arpaio’s department covers Arizona’s biggest county by population, with 3.8 million residents. His methods, including saturation patrols or “crime suppression” sweeps in predominantly Latino areas in and around Phoenix, have made him a hero to groups seeking a crackdown on illegal entrants to the U.S. and a target of advocates for immigrants’ rights.
The allegations in the class-action case are similar to those made by the U.S. Justice Department in a civil lawsuit filed in May against Maricopa County and Arpaio.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit accuses the sheriff of “intentionally and systematically” discriminating against Latinos. Arpaio, who has been elected five times and served 20 years in office, said in response to the U.S. lawsuit that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is going after him to court Latino voters.
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