Blog of Rights

Sheriff Arpaio on the Stand

By Cecillia Wang, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project at 3:46pm

U.S. citizens are entitled to “equal protection under the law” – that is, unless you look Latino and live in Arizona under the rule of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The nation’s self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” took the stand in federal court Tuesday, answering hundreds of questions from our legal team and facing the human targets of his racial profiling policies. These victims -- the very people Arpaio is sworn to protect -- have spent years waiting for the day when the sheriff would be forced to explain his discriminatory practices in open court.

If you’ve been following the case, you know this trial is about vindicating the rights of Latinos in Maricopa County who’ve been illegally stopped and detained by Arpaio based solely on their race or ethnicity.  

On Wednesday, Phoenix resident Daniel Magos testified about his experience of being pulled over by a deputy who ordered him and his wife out of their truck during a traffic stop and subjected him to a full pat-down search.  The reason for the stop?  Purportedly a missing license plate from a trailer attached to Mr. Magos’s truck.  No ticket was issued.  Mr. Magos, a 67 year-old U.S. citizen and small business owner, broke down on the witness stand as he recalled how he felt:  “Humiliated.  Worthless.  Defenseless.”

Arpaio’s racial profiling policies are illegal, impermissible under our Constitution and simply un-American. They violate core values of fairness and equality for all. These illegal practices have created fear throughout Latino communities because they cannot avoid being stopped on the basis of skin color. 

On Tuesday, attorneys played numerous videos of Arpaio touting his enforcement strategies.  They showed the Sheriff responding to charges of racial profiling by saying 99% of undocumented immigrants come from Mexico.  He said it was “an honor” to be associated with the KKK.  And he told one crowd of anti-immigrant activists, “I have official reasons” that he gives in court, and then he has “my reasons.”

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As court observers have seen during this trial, the ACLU is presenting evidence uncovered during the past four years to prove that Arpaio has systematically violated the rights of Latino residents in the name of immigration enforcement. It is time for these discriminatory practices to end.  

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