Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 22, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Arpaio Lawsuit


  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio is facing a lawsuit over racial profiling of Latinos during his immigration sweeps in Maricopa County. Alessandra Soler Meetze of the ACLU of Arizona joins Horizon to talk about the lawsuit.
Guests:
  • Alessandra Soler Meetze - Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Good evening. I'm Ted Simons. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been conducting on-going crime suppression and illegal immigration operations in Maricopa County. Those sweeps are now at the center of a Class Action Lawsuit filed in US District Court. Five people and "Somos America", a Latino community organization, are suing Arpaio, the Sheriff's Office, and Maricopa County. Those filing suits say that they or their members were unlawfully stopped and mistreated by law enforcement because they are Latino. Joining me now is Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. Thank you for joining us on Horizon, good to have you here.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Thanks for having me, Ted.

>>Ted Simons:
Now, this is an amended complaint to an original suit, correct?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Exactly. The original lawsuit was filed in December on behalf of one individual, a legal, permanent resident who was essentially targeted by Sheriff's officials simply because he looked and he sounded foreign. And so what we did was added additional plaintiffs to the complaint, and now filed on behalf of five individuals, because as these crime suppression sweeps continued, more and more people have contacted the ACLU and various community organizations to file complaints about how they are mistreated and unlawfully stopped.

>>Ted Simons:
And again, that original suit complaint involved a legal resident who was held for nine hours?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Exactly. He was held for nine hours. He was leaving a Day Labor Center, there was a White driver, and there were various individuals in the car. Arpaio then let the driver go, and then asked the other passengers in the car for identifications. He has all of his immigration documents, he had a Work Permit, and he had the - he was here legally. And then, the Sheriffs officials detained him for eight hours. They handcuffed him and never gave him any information about why he was there, why he was being detained.

>>Ted Simons:
OK. Now, the other people now that have been added on, they are US citizens?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Exactly, US citizens.

>>Ted Simons:
Talk about their complaints.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
We have two individuals, a husband and wife who were traveling to Bartlett Lake, and they were essentially pulled over after there was a road closure, and they didn't see the sign. And Sheriffs Deputies pulled them over, and several other White drivers as well. Our clients are Latino. The Sheriffs Deputies, once they pulled over the Latino drivers, asked them for their Social Security Cards, and didn't ask the other drivers for that same information. So clearly they are targeting people based on race, without having any evidence that these individuals were involved in any sort of criminal activity. And that's what's so problematic, because when you automatically assume - and that's the practice of the Sheriff, he assumes that every Latino in the state is illegal - and that's unreasonable, and its unconstitutional.

>>Ted Simons:
But that is difficult, I would think, to prove, in the sense that you are having to prove discrimination. Historically, at least, that's been tough to prove.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Exactly. Racial Profiling cases are not easy cases to file, but this isn't the first time that we've gone to court to litigate Racial Profiling cases. We successfully sued the Department of Public Safety over racial profiling. In fact, we recently produced a report that showed just how pervasive this is within Law Enforcement here in Arizona. We think that we have very compelling stories, and what happened to these clients is just egregious. As you said, these are US citizens, individuals who are here legally, they should be treated fairly and legally, and they should not be targeted because they simply were listening to Spanish music.

>>Ted Simons:
And yet, when the Sheriff's Office says something as simple as "we don't racially profile", again, that puts a lot of burden on the other side.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Exactly. As I said, it's not an easy case to win, especially Class Action Lawsuits. But as these suits are going to the judges, as the information is released into the Public Domain, people will learn more and more what Arpaio is doing.

>>Ted Simons:
ICE, the Federal immigration officials at ICE, they apparently have no problem with what the sheriff is doing. talk about that.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
We disagree. we believe that Joe Arpaio is going above and beyond the scope of the federal government. ice says he has the ability to inquire about immigration status when he is arresting and detaining people for violations of local and state laws like crimes. He is targeting motorists during traffic stops, and we think that goes above and beyond the scope of the agreement.

>>Ted Simons:
You would put probably cause I would imagine in the situation of the scenario. and yet, the sheriff's office will tell you if they see a pickup truck or a van of some kind, and it's lopsided and it's coming from Mexico, and it looks like there's a lot of people in there. Is there not probable cause that some human smuggling is going on?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
That's not the case with our plaintiffs. We have individuals who were vacationing. We have individuals who were outside of their places of business. He's not in these instances, and many, many other instances in the stories that we have heard, using evidence of criminal wrongdoing in order to stop people. So he's stopping people because they look foreign or have an accent. that's problematic. generally if he has the evidence of criminal wrongdoing, he's certainly within his right. that situation is not happening.

>>Ted Simons:
there's some comparing that what the sheriff is doing to DUI stops, roadblocks. compare and contrast if you will.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
DUI are ineffective because they go after the individuals without probable cause. it's a tremendous waste of police resources because you are spending a lot of time going after the wrong people. they are similar in that there's no probable cause and we oppose them but we think the difference here is that he again is targeting people based on race. that is contrary to the American values of fairness and equality. that's not right.

>>Ted Simons:
When the Sheriff says I'm doing my job and just enforcing the law, you respond?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
I believe he's going above and beyond the scope of law. he's going against the rights of Latinos and others in the community and creating fear. he's creating community policing and terrifying the Latinos in this country and completely disregarding the constitutional rights of the citizens.

>>Ted Simons:
Do we have a timetable for the suit? what's next and when?

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
These cases take awhile to resolve. we don't expect a decision anytime in the year but in the next six months.

>>Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us.

>>Alessandra Soler Meetze:
Great. Thank you very much.

>>Ted Simons:
We had Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Horizon last week. You can view that interview and the one you just saw on our web site.

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