Sweeps Threaten Latinos and Constitution in Maricopa County

On Friday, March 21, 2008, at around 4:30 p.m., I found myself in the middle of one of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration sweeps in a Latino neighborhood in Phoenix. I was on my way to Cave Creek-a suburb outside of Phoenix-to meet with two Latino day laborers who are my clients in a First Amendment lawsuit. Despite being an immigrants' rights advocate and ACLU attorney, I couldn't believe what I saw first-hand that night.

Sheriff Arpaio had set up a circus: Standing in a large commercial parking lot along one of Phoenix's main roads, the Sheriff and his deputies announced to the media and the public that they would engage in a neighborhood sweep, stopping and arresting those suspected of violating traffic and safety laws. Behind Sheriff Arpaio were sheriff's department trailers, vans and cars - many emblazoned with the words: "Do Not Enter: Illegal Aliens." Dozens of deputies were preparing to drive around a predominantly Latino neighborhood and pick up whoever they found suspicious. Helicopters flew overhead. You could feel the panic in the air.

People from the community concerned about what Sheriff Arpaio was up to began to arrive in the parking lot. A group of anti-immigrant protesters on motorcycles and holding signs began to surround the parking lot as well. I remember at least one shouted "spics, go home; this is our country," while aggressively inching closer and closer to the many Latino community residents and families who opposed the Sheriff's sweep.

The deputies began driving into the neighborhood, terrorizing the community until almost 11 p.m. that night. Young Latino men were brought into the parking lot in handcuffs. They looked terrified as they arrived in the back of sheriff's vehicles.Stadium lights were everywhere. The media was on-site interviewing deputies and concerned residents.

I felt like I was dreaming and in fact wondered if the men in handcuffs felt like that too. Were we in a movie? Why had they been brought to a parking lot instead of the downtown jail?

And they must have wondered why there were so many people present shouting, "No hables. Permanece callado. Tienes derecho a un abogado." I was one of those people shouting that these men remain quiet, and that they assert their rights. But as I stood there shouting for what seemed like an eternity, I could not help but feel fearful myself. As a first-generation Mexican-American, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and someone who grew up in a Latino neighborhood-much like the one being targeted that night-I thought of how this could happen to my father, my brother-in-law and my cousins, who every single day fear that they will be stopped or questioned because of the color of their skin and their accents.

Today, in an effort to put an end to this culture of fear born from rampant discrimination and racial profiling in Maricopa County, five Latinos and Somos America, a Latino community-based organization, sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Maricopa County. The lawsuit was filed on their behalf by the national ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and lead counsel Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

I hope that our plaintiffs find justice. The fear that pervaded that Friday in that Phoenix neighborhood didn't end that night. It's a fear that persists every single day for people who are, or appear to be, Latino or speak Spanish in Maricopa County. We cannot stand by and let this continue to happen in the United States.

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if you are here illegally, you do not warrant the rights given to this counrties citizens, as you are not a citizen. If you are here illegally, you should be in fear of being deported as YOU ARE BREAKING the LAW.


Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Is this a racist organization or what?


I hope that our plaintiffs find justice. I hope they find justice too, by being deported if they are here illegally.



Three anti-migrant comments from someone who probably has nothing better to do than sit at home and spread his or her hate.

Degrading migrants degrades us all. U.S. citizens suffer when migrants suffer. Denying this fundamental truth is only for those that can't stand the thought of unauthorized migrants being human.


Bill is yet another enlightened soul who believes LULAC, the NCLR, and MALDEF are racist organizations because they advocates for the Latino community.

Unfortunately, Bill, you have not read the Constitution. It guarantees the rights of due process to EVERYONE not just US Citizens.

Sheriff Arpaio is a sad joke. His antics have cost the county tens of millions of dollars in payouts to settle lawsuits. Hopefully the people of that county will wake up and kick the bum out come November.

USA Patriot

Hmm, seems that "Bill" has some time on his hands.

It is clear that Arpaio has been over-stepping his bounds for months. He has made Maricopa County a national shame and is openly coordinating with white supremacist organizations. Rather than making the community a safer place, he has let loose with a reign of terror that is alienating and marginalizing thousands upon thousands of innocent people.


Congratulations to the ACLU for going after Arpaio and his terrible tactics.

If I lived in Maricopa Country (ironically named after indigenous people) I'd worry for my safety as the sheriff is only worried about the easy to arrest people - hard working migrants.

The governor, Janet Napolitano, has taken funds from him for his lack of attention to real criminals and I hope the ACLU will be able to bring justice to this insane situation.

And Bill all people do have rights in the United States - that's what we're all about. "Liberty and justice for ALL."


Thank you for your bravery. What you witnessed was Racial Profiling and the insane sheriff needs to be stopped! I am glad the ACLU is taking this to court.
The sheriff needs to be prosecuted for his misdeeds.


Monica is a citizen. Did you read the post?
She has every right to protest herr sheriff and his trangressions of racial profiling.
Arpaio is a madman! He just wants media attention. Shame on him!


It doesnt matter that they are here illegally. This is America, they have RIGHTS AS HUMAN BEINGS!

“No hables. Permanece callado. Tienes derecho a un abogado!”


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