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Federal Judge Enjoins Arizona Sheriff’s Office From Immigration Enforcement, Racial Profiling


In Melendres v. Arpaio (PDF, 142-pages), G. Murray Snow, a federal judge for the District of Arizona, ruled on May 24, 2013, that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), under Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, engaged in impermissible racial profiling and enforcement of federal immigration law by singling out Latino day laborers and others.

Patrols by MCSO included using traffic stops as a pretext to detect occupants of vehicles who may be in the United States without authorization. Among the issues in the lawsuit were whether the MCSO was permitted under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to question, investigate, and/or detain Latino occupants of vehicles it suspects of being in the United States without authorization when it has no basis to bring state charges against such persons, and whether the MCSO uses race as a factor in forming suspicion or probable cause. The court noted that MCSO lost authority to enforce the civil administrative aspects of federal immigration law when ICE cancelled that authority under its “287(g) program,” which had delegated authority to enforce federal immigration law to a maximum of 160 MCSO deputies under Immigration and Nationality Act § 287(g). 

vehicles in Maricopa County based only on a “reasonable belief,” without more, that they are in the United States without authorization. The MCSO is further permanently enjoined from using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in determining whether to stop any vehicle in Maricopa County with a Latino occupant, and from enforcing federal immigration law.

The court noted that the MCSO “continues to engage in law enforcement efforts against unauthorized aliens, and continues to aggressively assert its authority to do so.” In doing so, the court said, the MCSO erroneously trained its patrol deputies that they had authority to continue enforcing federal immigration law. “To the extent that MCSO implemented faulty instruction from ICE through the racially biased policies and practices governing its enforcement operations, its own implementation of those operations was also significantly flawed by its failure to observe normal standards of police conduct,” the court noted.

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