Judge: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office profiles Latinos

May 24, 2013

A federal judge has issued an injunction against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department. The court order blocks Arpaio's agency from conducting immigration sweeps and using race as factor in traffic stops.

The case dates back to September 2007 when Manuel Ortega Melendres was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by deputies. The driver of the vehicle was Caucasian and was not detained, but Ortega Melendres was held for several hours even though he had a valid visa to be in the United States.

The ACLU and filed a class action suit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Ortega Melendrez and several other people.

Attorney Cecilia Wang argued the case for the ACLU. She explains the court’s decision.

"He has held that the Maricopa County sheriff’s office policy of using Latino race or ethnicity as a factor in deciding when to do traffic stops, violates the constitution," Wang said. "He has permanently enjoined the sheriff from continuing with that practice."

The sheriff’s office did not respond to request for an interview. The county attorney’s office said it would not comment on the decision.

Meanwhile, a separate civil action filed by the Department of Justice against the sheriff that deals with other alleged civil rights violations continues in another federal court.

Read the court decision (PDF).

UPDATED 5/24/2013 at 5:06 p.m.