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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Arizona Rulings Temper Sheriff Arpaio’s Crusade

(CN) - Federal judges in Arizona recently handed down two rulings meant to rein in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's highly publicized efforts to fight illegal immigration in the state's most populous county.

U.S District Judge G. Murray Snow on Wednesday ordered a long list of reforms with which Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) must comply, including the appointment of a federal monitor, enhanced data collection, record keeping and training, and a video recorder in every patrol vehicle to record every traffic stop.

The ruling comes in the wake of Snow's findings in May that the department violated the civil rights of Latino plaintiffs by racially profiling them and subjecting them to traffic stops and arrests without probable cause.

That decision resolved a Phoenix trial last summer in which the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, lead plaintiff Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres and others was pitted against the MCSO.

In a separate ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield enjoined Arizona's so-called Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy, which allegedly inspired Arpaio to create the Human Smuggling Unit of the MCSO and to make immigration enforcement one the department's top priorities.

Passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2005, the human smuggling law (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2319) allowed for the arrest and prosecution of immigrants for "conspiring to transport themselves within Maricopa County."

Broomfield agreed with plaintiffs We Are America/Somos America Coalition of Arizona in its proposed class action against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that the statute was preempted by federal law. Since the law went into effect, the MCSO has arrested some 1,800 "non-smugglers" and has prosecuted 1,357, according to the ruling.

Broomfield also certified a class of "all individuals who pay taxes to Maricopa County and object to the use of county tax revenues to stop, detain, arrest, incarcerate, prosecute, or penalize individuals for conspiring to transport themselves, and themselves only, in violation of Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2319."

In addition to mandating the creation of a Community Advisory Board and the appointment of a community liaison officer to work with a full-time, on-site federal monitor, Snow's ruling prohibits deputies from "detaining any individual based on actual or suspected 'unlawful presence,' without something more." It also bars them from "initiating a pretextual vehicle stop where an officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe a traffic or equipment violation has been or is being committed in order to determine whether the driver or passengers are unlawfully present."

"MCSO shall deliver police services consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and State of Arizona, MCSO policy, and this order, and with current professional standards," Snow wrote. "In conducting its activities, MCSO shall ensure that members of the public receive equal protection of the law, without discriminating based on actual or perceived race or ethnicity, and in a manner that promotes public confidence."

Arpaio hinted Tuesday that he would appeal Snow's ruling.

"I have received a copy of the court order and I am in the process of discussing it with our attorneys," he said in statement. "We are identifying areas that are ripe for appeal. To be clear, the appointed monitor will have no veto authority over my duties or operations. As the constitutionally elected Sheriff of Maricopa County, I serve the people and I will continue to perform my duties and enforce all laws."

Dan Pachoda, legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement that the requirements, which must remain in place for at least three years, show "Judge Snow recognized that Sheriff Arpaio's years of discriminatory practices and unconstitutional policies required major change-including appointment of a federal monitor, data collection and video recording for every vehicle stop."

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