PHOENIX (CN) – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “reliance on Hispanic appearance in immigration-related investigations” violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, plaintiffs’ attorneys in the civil rights class action wrote in their closing arguments.
The five named plaintiffs in the federal complaint, filed more than four years ago, were detained by sheriff’s deputies during “crime suppression sweeps,” allegedly conducted to enforce Arizona’s human-smuggling law.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys claim Arpaio’s admission that his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s “has a practice of considering apparent Hispanic descent as one among several indicators in forming reasonable suspicion to justify immigration-related investigatory detentions of drivers and passengers during traffic stops” clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause.
But attorneys for Maricopa County and Sheriff Arpaio claim in their closing arguments that trial evidence “amply demonstrates that plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof that defendants, or any MCSO deputy, acted with discriminatory intent, motive or animus in any manner, or that defendants had a policy, pattern, or practice that was motivated by a discriminatory purpose.”
Arpaio “can oppose ‘rampant’ illegal immigration without having racial or ethnic animus toward the illegal immigrants specifically, or Latinos in general,” his attorneys claims.
The plaintiffs disagree. They say “that the use of race for this purpose is permissible because that is how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) trained certain MCSO officers … is no defense if those actions were unconstitutional under clearly established law.”
Arpaio’s “practice of planning saturation patrols in response to racially motivated requests from the public is sufficient to demonstrate the MCSO’s discriminatory intent,” plaintiffs’ attorneys said in their closing arguments.
Deputies have targeted Latinos “for pretextual traffic stops based on low-level traffic and equipment violations in order to maximize the number of opportunities to investigate drivers and passengers in reference to their identity and immigration status,” the lawyers say in their arguments.
But Arpaio’s attorneys claim that the plaintiffs were wrong to suggest that “Arpaio had racially discriminatory intent, motive, purpose, or animus against Latinos when he publicly announced in 2007 an MCSO ‘crackdown’ on illegal immigration.” They claim that the “race-neutral reality is that Arizona is a border state and that Maricopa County is a well-recognized major human smuggling corridor.”
The plaintiffs are not seeking money damages, but an injunction to stop Arpaio and his office from exceeding their authority, and from engaging in racial discrimination.
It is not known when U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow will rule on the case.