Hope in Arizona as Sheriff Backs Down on Immigration Enforcement

Hope in Arizona as Sheriff Backs Down on Immigration Enforcement

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PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is taking a forced step back from the type of hard-line immigration enforcement he is notorious for.

At a federal hearing Friday, defense attorneys representing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) tried to convince a federal judge that change is well on its way within the embattled agency.

Judge Murray Snow ruled on May 24 that MCSO violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by engaging in racial profiling during its crime suppression sweeps and worksite raids that sought to apprehend undocumented workers.

Friday’s hearing was held to discuss remedies within the sheriff’s office.

During the hearing, attorneys from both parties agreed to work on a consent decree to resolve the constitutional violations.

“It was a very good day and I think we’re coming up with a resolution,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor.

Judge Snow said at the hearing that he wants MCSO to have a court appointed monitor, something the sheriff’s office has resisted in the past, to ensure racial profiling doesn’t occur in the future.

“It was a very strong statement by the judge. Now we have to have both sides come to a decision that would put forward a consent decree,” said Wilcox, a long time critic of Arpaio’s immigration sweeps.

Plaintiff’s attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) said they are hopeful an agreement will be reached.

“The court’s order means the end of federal civil immigration enforcement [by the sheriff’s department],” said Stanley Young, a private attorney who is the lead on the ACLU lawsuit. Although, he said, “The sheriff still has the ability to enforce federal criminal law of all kinds.”

Young emphasized that they will be negotiating further protection measures to ensure civil rights violations don’t occur in the future.

Arpaio, who turned 81 on Friday, wasn’t present at the hearing. Chief Jerry Sheridan was announced in his place.

“We are out of the illegal immigration business, the judge made that quite clear,” said Sheridan to NAM. “However, (the judge) also made it quite clear today that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office could enforce [other] federal criminal law.”

Arpaio’s immigration crackdowns have involved a mix of patrols, traffic stops and detentions, as well as raids on businesses and worksites.

The raids will continue to take place, according to Sheridan. Judge Snow said in court that his ruling only pertains to certain aspects of the raid operations, since they involve state “employer sanction” laws.

Judge Snow clarified during the hearing that Arpaio’s office can still contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they encounter someone that is in the country illegally –a requirement of Arizona’s SB 1070.

But ACLU attorney Annie Lai, part of the legal team behind the lawsuit, said sheriff’s deputies will no longer be able to detain people in the workplace and turn them in to ICE like they used to. That portion of the employment sanctions enforcement will end per the judge’s order – the sheriff’s office will not be able to detain people while waiting for immigration officials to show up, unless a crime has been committed.

Carlos Garcia, director of PUENTE, a group that works with the victims of Arpaio’s raids, urged the federal government to stop deportations for those affected by unlawful MCSO arrests.

“From now until this is resolved, we’re expecting no more deportations in Maricopa County by MCSO. We are expecting no more raids and the victims of Arpaio to be released,” said Garcia. “There are families that are suffering because of this racial profiling, there are families that are victims of what Arpaio has done. We wan their immigration cases to be stopped.”

Attorneys for both parties will hold meetings during the coming months to come up with a consent decree. If they reach an agreement it will be discussed at a hearing on August 30.

The consent decree could include –per the judge request- ways of ensuring MCSO keeps records on its traffic stops that would help monitor that racial profiling doesn’t take place, training and the appointment of a court monitor.