Dec 27, 2011 5 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Local Latino community leaders and activists called for the resignation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday and asked that his officers change their tactics and stop what they call racial profiling.
Antonio Bustamante, a civil-rights attorney and director of Los Abogados, Arizona’s Hispanic Bar Association, said federal Judge Murray Snow’s ruling Friday is “monumentally important” because it confirms that officers are not authorized to pull anyone over if they think they are in the country illegally.
“Mere presence is not a crime,” said Bustamante, who sat at a long table inside El Portal, a downtown Phoenix Mexican restaurant.
Snow’s ruling will curtail the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s ability to target illegal immigrants. It also gives thousands of Hispanics standing in a civil lawsuit that seeks to alter Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement efforts.
Arpaio was traveling Monday and wasn’t able to comment, said a spokesman.
Arpaio’s attorney said last week that he plans to appeal the injunction and that deputies will comply with the ruling while continuing to enforce immigration-related laws.
The group of Latino community leaders and activists gathered to herald the ruling, which gives every Latino stopped, questioned or detained by the Sheriff’s Office since January 2007 standing in the 4-year-old civil-rights lawsuit.
The judge’s ruling also bars all sheriff’s officers from arresting any person “only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States.”
Daniel Ortega, a Phoenix attorney who is board chair of the National Council of La Raza, said the ruling is about the protection of constitutional rights.
“It’s the right to be free,” said Ortega, who spoke in front of a painting of Martin Luther King Jr.
“Those of us who were U.S. residents were subject to his (Arpaio’s) illegal searches.”
Ortega said Snow’s ruling meant that it has “snowed on Sheriff’s Arpaio’s racial-profiling parade.”
Lydia Guzman, executive director of the non-profit immigrant advocacy group Respect Respeto, said her group will continue to document stories such as those who said they were handcuffed for hours until they proved they were in the country legally.
“Sheriff Arpaio, we are watching you,” Guzman said.
State Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said Arpaio has “done more damage” to the state than any other lawmaker and that Arpaio has “violated” the rights of many for “much too long.”
Gallardo asked that anyone who has been “violated” by Arpaio and his officers to stand up and tell their story.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said the “bottom line” is “things have to change.”
“Latinos will not be treated as second-class citizens,” said Wilcox, who co-owns El Portal restaurant with her husband, Earl.
She said Arpaio’s “violations” could have “tremendous consequences” on an estimated $150 million in federal money the state receives.
Wilcox will ask the Board of Supervisors to hold an executive session to seek advice from lawyers on what can be done so this federal money is not “jeopardized.”
“If Sheriff Arpaio doesn’t change, he must step down,” Wilcox said. “We will not stand for racial profiling.”
Arpaio has until Jan. 4 to submit a plan on how he will comply with the federal government.
Republic reporter JJ Hensley contributed to this article.