Justice Dept. Sues Arizona Sheriff Arpaio for Civil Rights Violations

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Common Dreams

Justice Dept. Sues Arizona Sheriff Arpaio for Civil Rights Violations

by
Common Dreams staff

The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it is suing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for civil rights violations and fostering discrimination against Latinos.

Reuters reports that the suit said "Latinos in Maricopa County are frequently stopped, detained, and arrested on the basis of race, color or national origin."

"In addition, defendants MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) and Arpaio pursue a pattern or practice of illegal retaliation against their perceived critics by subjecting them to baseless criminal action, unfounded civil lawsuits or meritless administrative actions."

TPM adds that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, told reporters in a conference call today: “All of the alleged violations that our outlined in the complaint are the product of a culture of disregard for basic rights within the culture of MCSO that starts at the top and pervades the organization.”

“By bringing this suit, the Justice Department has taken an important step toward ending the rampant racial profiling and illegal stops by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This development adds to the momentum as the ACLU and its partners will be going to trial against Sheriff Arpaio in July. We will put forward evidence we have uncovered over the past three years to prove that MCSO has systematically violated the rights of Latino residents of Maricopa County in the name of immigration enforcement. This kind of unconstitutional racial profiling must stop.”

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CNN: U.S. plans to sue controversial Arizona sheriff

The U.S. Justice Department plans to file a civil lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio over civil rights violations.

In a letter sent Wednesday to an attorney for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez writes that the county's failure to address racial discrimination and other violations found by the federal government in December will go to litigation.

The sheriff's policies are unconstitutional and in violation of federal law, and compliance "cannot be secured through voluntary means," the letter said.

As a result, the Justice Department will file suit against the county, the sheriff's office and Arpaio.

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TPM: Justice Department Sues Sheriff Joe Arpaio Over Alleged Latino Abuse

Federal authorities allege that Arpaio and his office have unconstitutionally and unlawfully targeted Latinos during traffic stops and during crime suppression operations. DOJ alleges that MCSO unlawfully detained Latino drivers and passengers and conducted unconstitutional searches and seizures in addition to illegally targeting Latino workers during worksite raids.

DOJ’s suit, filed in the District of Arizona, accuses jail officials of referring to Latinos as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.” The suit says Arpaio “voiced his biased opinion of Latinos and Latino culture” in a book he coauthored in 2008.

“Arpaio singles out Mexicans and Latinos as different from all other immigrant groups in America,” the complaint says. “For example, Arpaio states that Latinos maintain ‘language [,] customs [and] beliefs separate from the mainstream,’ and are trying to “reconquest” American soil through migration to the United States.

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Related: In this February interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision, Arpaio dismisses Ramos' statement that he is the face of discrimination and insists that Latinos "love" him.

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