ACLU Reacts to DOJ Decision to Hold Maricopa County Accountable for Violating Civil Rights of Latinos in Maricopa County
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PHOENIX – The U.S. Department of Justice today announced that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has committed a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos as part of his misguided and overzealous anti-immigrant agenda and ordered the sheriff’s office to immediately end his discriminatory practices or face litigation by the federal government.
Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona of Arizona, issued the following statement:
“For far too long, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has created a culture of fear by declaring open season on Latinos throughout Maricopa County. His agency embodies everything that could and does go wrong when local police waste law enforcement resources targeting people solely because of their race and skin color.
This decision by the Department of Justice to rein in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is long overdue. It vindicates the complaints by Latinos throughout Maricopa County whose trips to work or the grocery story have resulted in discriminatory traffic stops and interrogations by armed officers and often ended with detentions and jailings for no reason.
We’re hopeful that the DOJ’s actions and existing litigation will finally bring some justice for the racial profiling victims and result in substantive, meaningful changes to these racist MCSO practices and policies that have torn our communities apart. “
The ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the San Francisco-based law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of five individuals and Somos America, a Latino community-based coalition, charging that they or their members were unlawfully stopped and mistreated by Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies because they are Latino. As part of that lawsuit – filed in 2008 – and after extensive discovery and fact-finding, the ACLU submitted more than 200 pages of evidence, including racially charged letters and emails, to demonstrate discriminatory intent on the part of Arpaio himself and some of his highest-ranking officers.
The evidence submitted as part of that case, Ortega Melendres, et al. v. Arpaio, et al., will be the subject of an upcoming hearing at 9:30 a.m. on December 22 before Judge G. Murray Snow, United States District Court, 401 West Washington Street, in downtown Phoenix, in Courtroom #602, 6th Floor. The judge will consider the ACLU’s request for a summary judgment ruling that Arpaio’s practices were unconstitutional and violated plaintiff’s rights.
More information on the case, Ortega Melendres, et al. v. Arpaio, et al., is available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/35986res20080715.html