Arizona’s anti-immigrant Sheriff Arpaio in racial profiling suit

A Mexican citizen who is in the US legally has filed the first lawsuit challenging the aggressive immigration-enforcement efforts of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona’s Maricopa County, charging unlawful detainment and racial profiling. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that Arpaio’s actions are unconstitutional, and injunctions prohibiting the use of Arpaio’s anti-immigration hotline and directing the Sheriff’s Office to disband its Illegal Immigration Interdiction unit.

“Our investigations show that the Sheriff’s Office has routinely exceeded their authority and shown a blatant disregard for the civil rights of individuals in Maricopa County,” said Lou Moffa, a lead attorney in the case. “With this suit, we hope to demonstrate that no matter how politically popular an issue is, the Sheriff’s Office does not have the right to trounce haphazardly over an individual’s rights.”

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 12 in federal court, outlines several instances where Arpaio and his deputies are accused of overstepping their authority to conduct “immigration raids,” targeting people solely based on race, and detaining persons who are legally in the country. Although only one plaintiff is identified, the lawsuit is a class-action suit filed on behalf of “all others similarly situated.”

Arpaio called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said it is an attempt to intimidate him before his office begins enforcing the state’s new employer-sanctions law on Jan. 1. “There is no racial-profiling,” Arpaio said. “I don’t go around the street corner grabbing 10 people because they look like they’re from Mexico.”

The named litigant is Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a US citizen who was illegally detained after being stopped on the street, and held for about eight hours before an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent verified his documents.

The Sheriff’s Office has been enforcing federal immigration laws since March 2006. About 160 deputies and jail officers have been specially trained to enforce federal immigration laws. Since 2006, ICE-trained Maricopa deputies have arrested or deported more than 1,200 people. In July, Arpaio launched a controversial hotline to let the public report “illegal immigrants” or smuggling activity.

Arpaio said traffic stops like the one involving Ortega will continue. “We’re going to keep doing our job,” Arpaio said. “We’re going to keep arresting illegal immigrants.” (Arizona Republic, Dec. 13)

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and the struggle in Maricopa County.

  1. Phoenix “drophouse” raid nabs 20
    From the Arizona Republic, Dec. 17:

    A drop house with nearly two dozen illegal immigrants was busted in Phoenix Monday evening.

    The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detained 20 people found at the home, five of which are believed to be smugglers.

    Authorities accuse the suspected smugglers of violently mistreating the other immigrants.

    “They were pistol whipped and abused for the last three days,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

    Arpaio added his office would work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to further investigate what took place at the residence and to determine if any charges will be filed.

    “There is violence involved with immigration,” Arpaio said. “It shows that I’m not just locking up gardeners and restaurant workers like everyone says I am.”

  2. Illegal immigration: The world needs immigration moratoriums.
    America is a nation like any other, and we as a people have a right to preserve our identity in the face of massive illegal immigration;that has nothing to do with biggotry. Anyone assumes that because one doesn’t want ones country balkanized that you hate the others-no we love them, especially when they stay in their own countries and create their own happiness instead of flooding our labor market and insisting our society be transformed in their image.

    The Jewish people have been able to survive for millennia and preserve their culture because they had pride in their identity and values.We Americans need to take note of this remarkable persistence of a people and stand for who we are as well. Our openness and tolerance should not be used an instrament to dissolve us, and it most certainly is.

    Latin Americans have a score of countries in this hemisphere, they don’t need ours they need to improve theirs. Handing them America on a silver platter as we have been is like handing the car keys to a teenager who has just totaled all the cars in the family except one. Where will WE have to go when they turn the United States into another Brazil or Mexico?

    When our forefathers came and built this nation, it came to be considered the worlds, “last best hope”. Turn all our cities into Mexico city and this nations posterity will be doomed.

    Has it ever occurred to any of these nitwits advocating for the massive uprooting of millions of people to flood labor markets that they are the unwitting tools of multinational corporations and those that seek to dimminisah the legislative risk to business posed by Nation States? if concern for poor Latinos is your honest objective and not simply the domination of American Society by your ethnic group, a more sensible appraoch would be the massive introduction of Capital to latin America-the Chinese have trillions to lend-rather than the massive exportation of latin American labor.

    The fact that I have not heard a single Hispanic advocate for such is telling.

    1. Invest, just not your money?
      ” a more sensible appraoch would be the massive introduction of Capital to latin America-the Chinese have trillions to lend-”

      Does the phrase ‘standard of living’ ring a bell? If there’s to be a massive introduction of capital to Latin America, why not from the worlds largest economy? Oh right, we’re fat and broke at the same time.

      Wake up Tex, the Mexicans aren’t going to turn Dallas into Mexico City, the multi-nationals are.

    2. immigrants need to “improve” their own countries?
      “Americans as a people have a right to preserve our identity…” you argue.

      But what is “American identity”? American identity has been forged over many generations, from the Native Americans who lived on this land for thousands of years, from the forcibly displaced people brought as slaves from Africa, from the cultures imposed by the Spanish and French in their colonies later absorbed by the US, from the various early waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia…. All this has mixed together to form an “identity” and “culture” which is different in every region of the country and is constantly reinventing itself with each new wave of immigrants. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin warned that German immigration would destroy the English language in Pennsylvania. Did that happen?

      Are the immigrants really the ones who have “totaled” their countries, as you claim?

      Working-class Mexicans aren’t the ones running Mexico. Mexico is run by rich Mexicans–and, more and more in the last two or three decades, by rich people from our own country. Mexico’s second-largest bank, Banamex, is now a subsidiary of Citigroup. In other words, the people who trashed the Mexican economy aren’t the Mexican immigrants working behind the counter at your local store, but to a large extent the same bankers who have done so much to trash our own economy with the subprime mortgage crisis, and the bubble before that. (To read a little about Citigroup’s recent maneuvers in Mexico, see … and to read about how US corruption has played a far larger role than Mexican corruption in compelling millions of Mexicans to migrate, see )

      “Latin Americans need to improve their countries,” you say.

      But what has happened every time Latin Americans try to “improve” their countries? Are you really unaware of the history of US invasions, occupations, the crushing of popular movements, of union organizing, the US support for coups, assassinations, terrorism, torture, etc. etc. etc. that Latin America has endured every time its people seek change? (In case you need a few of the more blatant examples: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia…) Not to mention the destructive impact of economic plans like NAFTA and systems of permanent debt imposed by the US government and the institutions and corporations associated with it. So whose fault is it that Latin Americans have not been able to “improve” their countries?

  3. Immigrant advocates march in Phoenix
    From the Arizona Republic, Dec. 19:

    About 100 immigrant-rights advocates marched from a Phoenix furniture store to City Hall on Wednesday to protest Mayor Phil Gordon’s efforts to have Phoenix police take a more aggressive approach toward arresting undocumented immigrants.

    The march took place on the day of the last City Council meeting of the year. Marchers spoke out against Gordon’s decision to change a 20-year-old policy that restricts officers from asking people about their immigration status during routine encounters.

    “I implore you to maintain the policy so the immigrant community can maintain trust of the police,” said Rev. Liana Rowe of Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, one of 25 people who spoke to the council opposing the policy change.