ACLU Sues Maricopa County Sheriff's Office For Illegal Arrest And Detention Of U.S. Citizen And Legal Resident

August 19, 2009

Men Stopped 100 Yards From Worksite Raid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit today challenging the illegal arrest and detention of a U.S. citizen and a legal resident by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies. The two men were driving down a public roadway when they were stopped and arrested without justification, and transported to the site of an immigration raid.

"Our clients suffered egregious constitutional violations and were terrified when held against their will for three hours by armed MCSO personnel," said Dan Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona and lead counsel on the case. "Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies had absolutely no reason t o stop these two men and drag them off to a worksite raid. This is yet another example of MCSO sacrificing the rights and well being of workers in the name of immigration enforcement."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of Julian Mora, a legal permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, and his son Julio Mora, a U.S. citizen, against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County. The lawsuit charges that the MCSO deputies racially profiled the father and son as they drove their pickup truck on a busy public road and illegally arrested and detained them, violating the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law and prohibition on unreasonable seizures.

Julian Mora was driving to work when, without provocation, an MCSO vehicle cut in front of him forcing him to stop abruptly. MCSO deputies then ordered the father and son out of their vehicle, then frisked and handcuffed them. Although the deputies had no reason to believe that the Moras had broken any law or were in the country unlawfully, they transported the Moras to Handyman Maintenance, Inc. (HMI), where MCSO was conducting a raid that morning. For the next three hours, the Moras were held at HMI, where they were denied food and water and forbidden contact with the outside world. They were not released until they were interrogated.

The ordeal was particularly humiliating for 66-year-old Julian Mora who, due to his diabetic condition, has difficulty controlling his bladder and had an urgent need to use the bathroom. MCSO personnel, however, rejected his repeated requests. Eventually, deputies escorted him outside where he was made to urinate in the parking lot. MCSO personnel later mocked his son Julio when he had to use the bathroom, because he had difficulty going with his hands still cuffed.

"To this day, I don't know why the officers stopped us out of all the cars on the road," said 19-year-old Julio Mora. "We were treated like criminals and never told why. I was very scared. I never thought something like this would happen to me. Now I know it can happen to anyone, citizens too. I don't think it's fair."

Arizona's draconian employer sanctions law and the federal 287(g) program have enabled MCSO personnel to question and arrest workers for alleged violations of federal immigration law. As a result, MCSO has aggressively stepped up local immigration enforcement efforts and conducted raids at worksites across the county with predominantly Latino employees. The raids have not resulted in the conviction of any employer for an employer sanctions violation.

"Local sheriff and police forces simply should not be in the business of enforcing immigration laws. Where state or local officers try to determine who is in the U.S. without permission, we see a pattern of conduct where law-abiding people cannot go about their business without government interference," said Cecillia Wang, a managing attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Instead of violating our basic American rights by seizing people without any reason and singling them out for 'looking foreign,' MCSO should focus on dangerous crimes and maintaining a safe environment for everyone in Maricopa County."

Annie Lai, an ACLU of Arizona staff attorney, said "Arpaio's worksite raids – such as the raids last year on Artistic Land Management in Mesa, Gold Canyon Candle Company in Chandler, last week's raid on Royal Paper Converting and this raid on HMI – are frequently conducted in total disregard for people's constitutional rights and have resulted in the arbitrary detention of many law-abiding citizens and legal residents."

Lawyers on the case, Mora, et al. v. Arpaio, et al., include Wang and Harini Raghupathi of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and Pochoda and Lai of the ACLU of Arizona. 

The complaint is online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/workplace/40773lgl20090819.html

More information about the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project is online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/index.html

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