Immigration Rights issue image

Cortes v. Lakowsky

Location: Arizona
Last Update: February 5, 2015

What's at Stake

Over the last two years since the “show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070 went into effect, the ACLU has documented numerous cases of racial profiling and illegal detentions by law enforcement officials throughout the state. In Tucson alone, the ACLU has filed several “Notices of Claim” alleging that law enforcement officers regularly engage in racial profiling and illegal detention as a result of applying the law.

Cortes v. Lakosky is a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations as a result of the implementation of this provision of SB 1070 in Arizona. The ACLU filed this lawsuit in federal district court in Phoenix on behalf of an Arizona woman, Maria Cortes, who spent five days in the custody of immigration authorities after a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy “cited and released” her following a traffic stop, then instructed another sheriff’s deputy to transport her to a nearby Border Patrol station. The lawsuit brings a Fourth Amendment claim against the deputies for prolonging her detention solely based on a suspicion that she was an undocumented immigrant. At the time of her detention, Ms. Cortes had a pending U-visa application stemming from her status as a victim of domestic violence.

Filed in September of 2014, this is the first federal lawsuit to challenge the application of the “show me your papers” law in Arizona. The case challenges the actions of two deputies of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, which is headed by Sheriff Paul Babeu. Along with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Sheriff Babeu has been among the most outspoken law enforcement officials in support of S.B. 1070, notorious anti-immigrant law.

On December 17, 2014, the ACLU obtained a judgment against Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, two sheriff’s deputies and Pinal County on behalf of Ms. Cortes. The $25,001 judgment resolves the lawsuit.

In 2013, the ACLU took action against the South Tucson Police Department (STPD) on behalf of a Southside Workers Center worker who was unlawfully detained by officers and turned over to the Border Patrol. The claim charged false arrest and imprisonment, unreasonable search and seizure and violation of his equal protection under the law. A lawsuit was averted in May of this year after STPD agreed to overhaul the department’s policies with respect to immigration enforcement.

In addition to the legal claims against STPD and TPD, the ACLU and its partners have been talking with police departments and local governments across the state to inform them about the law’s basic failings, explaining that SB 1070 doesn’t trump the U.S. Constitution or provide an excuse for discriminatory policing.

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