After seven days of trial testimony from both the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Latino residents of the county who have suffered under a pattern and practice of racial profiling, the civil trial against Sheriff Joe Arpaio came to an end last week. The U.S. District Court will now decide whether Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, has targeted Latinos for discriminatory traffic stops and illegal detentions.
The ACLU lawsuit seeks to put an end to the MCSO’s illegal practice of targeting Latinos for traffic stops and subjecting Latino drivers and passengers to humiliating extended detentions for the purpose of interrogations into nationality and immigration status.
Sheriff Arpaio has publicly stated that he sees no problem with racial profiling, arguing that any innocent person should have no issue with being investigated by a law enforcement officer. The Sheriff is dead wrong. Our clients sent a clear message about exactly why it is that the Constitution forbids the singling out of one ethnic group by the police.
Take the story of class member Diona Solis, who was on her way back from a Boy Scout camping trip in the Grand Canyon with her co-chaperone Jaime Flores-Sanchez, their sons and other members of the Boy Scout troop. Though Jaime was driving carefully and obeying all traffic laws, an MCSO deputy stopped their van. When the deputy heard Jaime and Diona speaking Spanish to each other, he demanded to know whether Jaime and Diona were U.S. citizens and then demanded to see ID cards for everyone in the car – including the boys, who ranged in age from nine to eleven.
What happened to Diona and Jaime should never happen to anyone. It is among the many reasons we spent the last three weeks in court, and it’s why we’ve spent years fighting to end racial profiling.
While Arpaio has refused to take responsibility for his wrongdoing, we know that in America, no one is above the law and law enforcement officials who condone race discrimination will be held to account in court. It’s time for these unconstitutional and grossly unfair practices to end – not just in Maricopa County, but across our nation.