Sheriff Joe Arpaio Will Appeal Racial Profiling Decision

Sheriff Joe Arpaio vowed to appeal a federal judge's ruling that he and his deputies engage in illegal racial profiling.

By Seth Freed Wessler May 29, 2013

In a video statement yesterday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ said he would appeal a major federal court ruling from last week that ordered an end to practices of racial profiling.  The decision from Judge Murray Snow of U.S. District Court in Phoenix, was a major blow to the Sheriff who has made a career as a flamboyant anti-immigrant force who admits to targeting Latinos during neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops.

"We will appeal this ruling," Arpaio said yesterday (see video above).

In the meantime, Arpaio said that he ordered his deputies to stop detaining undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status. "[T]he court’s order is clear," he said. "We will no longer detain persons believed to be in the country without authorization whom we cannot arrest on state charges."

But the impact of the ruling in the Melendres v. Arpaio case is not yet clear. Though the court issued an immediate injunction against unconstitutional practices of racial profiling, Arpaio’s statement suggests he may continue to target immigrants under the pretense that they’ve broken state laws. Arpaio’s 800 deputies regularly stop and arrest Latinos in Maricopa County by citing state laws written to target immigrants, including one anti-human smuggling law that makes it possible for the county to charge individuals with smuggling themselves into the country.  

This shiftiness leads many to wonder about the impact of the injunction. "We’re going to have to wait and see what happens," says Carlos Garcia, an organizer with Puente Arizona. "For people to be able to go to work without fearing that they are not going to be stopped or raided would something amazing."

In his statement, Arpaio also shifted blame for his department’s profiling practices to the federal government.

"One hundred of my deputies were authorized and trained by the federal government, ICE, to enforce federal immigration law," he said. "Now, a federal court has ruled that federal training was unconstitutional, and it led to racial profiling."

Maricopa County deputies were indeed trained by federal officials to act as immigration enforcers through the 287(g) programs and were instructed they could use race as a factor in making stops, according to the decision from Judge Snow. But while the federal government helped empower Arpaio’s worst practices, when the 287(g) terminated the agreement, Arpaio continued to detain immigrants and changed his justification saying that he had inherent authority to enforce immigration laws.

Garcia and other advocates are also concerned about the thousands of people who Arpaio has already arrested.  

"Who knows how many people have been illegally detained and arrested who’ve ended up with criminal convictions or removed," said Cecillia Wang, an attorney with the ACLU, which brought suit. "Our case really was looking for injunctive relief to bring an end to the policy and practice of targeting Latinos and detaining people because of immigration status.  But this decision does not have any direct impact for people already facing changes."

Litigants will head to court again on June 14th when Judge Snow will outline next steps to remedy the illegal profiling practices. These could include the introduction of an independent monitor and data collection requirements.