PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio relied on racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latinos, a federal district court said today. The ruling comes following a three-week trial in July and August of last year, over a pattern of unlawful practices by Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) during immigration sweeps and traffic stops.
“Arpaio’s proven willingness to seek political gain at the expense of public safety and constitutional guarantees has come at a great cost to Latinos in Maricopa County, who’ve been terrorized by MCSO personnel and forced to endure years of racial harassment and abuse,” said Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “The court found that racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, from top to bottom, was pervasive and widespread. Given the absence of monitoring or even recognition of serious problems by agency personnel, court-required, substantive changes will be necessary to eradicate these unconstitutional practices and restore public trust.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP represented a class of Latino residents and a Latino community organization, Somos America, in the lawsuit.
“I applaud the many individuals who came forward to tell their stories with courage and dignity,” said Lydia Guzman of Somos America. “This decision brings us one step closer to justice. I look forward to working together to ensure that the MCSO is not allowed to profile our community any longer.”
“This is an important victory that will resound far beyond Maricopa County,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Singling people out for traffic stops and detentions simply because they’re Latino is illegal and just plain un-American. 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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