Joe Arpaio, self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and gaudy critic of illegal immigration, was found by a federal judge Friday afternoon to have violated Arizona Latinos’ constitutional rights.
Plaintiffs accused Arpaio and his deputies of racial profiling for pulling over Latinos solely to check their immigration status, a violation of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, presented evidence that the deputies engaged in explicitly anti-Hispanic behavior, and argued that the rate of stoppages coincided with immigration sweeps by Arpaio’s office.
Arpaio maintained he and his deputies only stopped suspects when they felt an infraction had been committed, and that racial profiling safeguards were already in place.
The trial wrapped up last August, after the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix dropped an abuse-of-power investigation against Arpaio. A Department of Justice investigation over similar charges is ongoing.
The victory for Latinos and civil rights groups is the first of its kind in response to stricter law enforcement following the passage of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070.
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