By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
Several weeks ago, I lamented the fact that Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio had a free hand in his personal and racist campaign against undocumented immigrants.
Some critics of the sheriff have even complained that his deputies have sat outside of grocery stories, shopping malls, and even churches frequented by undocumented immigrants to harass or stop and arrest them for simple traffic infractions like broken tail lights, or because the good sheriff and his deputies “thought they looked suspicious.”
In other words, if your skin color was brown, even if you were a U. S. citizen, you were fair game of the ruthless law enforcement thugs of Maricopa County.
Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix, an out spoken critic of Arpaio, called upon the U. S. Department of Justice to investigate the tactics and unlawful campaign of Sheriff Arpaio, his deputies, and his personal army of Minutemen he deputized as his personal “posse” to assist his department. Arpaio even allows many of the Minutemen to carry guns and rifles as members of his “Minuteman posse.”
It seemed like no one wanted to take on Arpaio or his racist policies against undocumented immigrants.
That was the case until MALDEF; the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund filed a class action lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio for racial profiling and civil rights violations.
According to the lawsuit, “It seeks to stop Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” and his deputies from engaging in unconstitutional searches and seizures of U.S. citizens based on their Latino heritage or appearance.”
Under an agreement with ICE,( Immigration Customs Enforcement) an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, Sheriff Arpaio was obligated to follow the “287(g) agreement for enforcing federal immigration laws.
The “287(g) agreement" with ICE, provides local law enforcement agencies special training and grants them the authority to enforce complex immigration laws.
The lawsuit states, "Sheriff Arpaio agreed to follow 'ICE guidelines (that) state officers can only use 287(g) authority when people are taken into custody as a result of violating state or local criminal law. Police cannot randomly ask for a person’s immigration status or conduct immigration raids,' and that officers may only use their authority when dealing with someone who is suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense.”
The problem was that the Arpaio, his deputies and Minuteman posse were breaking “federal laws” by stopping suspected undocumented immigrants for violating simple traffic violations or raiding homes, or shopping malls.
Generally, the people arrested by the sheriff’s personal campaign against immigrants meant that even people, who had the proper documents, were forced to remain in jail until they could provide the necessary paperwork.
It was literally a flash back to Nazi Germany when the elite SS troopers would stop Jews and ask, “your papers, please.”
Kristina Campbell, MALDEF Staff Attorney said that in addition to basically “flouting the U. S. Constitution, He has drained resources from other crime fighting and investigation units, and his discriminatory practices have undermined trust – a critical component of effective law enforcement – in the Latino community.”
The ACLU of Arizona and the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project have joined MALDEF in filing the lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio, before the U.S. District Court for Arizona.
Finally, Sheriff Arpaio from Maricopa County is under scrutiny for violating the civil rights of undocumented immigrants and for breaking federal immigration laws as well.
Imagine that, Sheriff Arpaio, the lawbreaker. MALDEF is out to put a stop to the ruthless campaign of injustice by Sheriff Arpaio and preventing the Sheriff from violating federal laws while pretending to be enforcing federal immigration laws against "criminals".
MALDEF deserves our appreciation for their efforts to finally put a stop to “America’s toughest sheriff.”
Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212