Melendres v. Sheriff Joseph Arpaio
The absence of federal comprehensive immigration reform has led to increased cases of racial profiling by law enforcement, as local officers see fit to take enforcement of federal immigration law into their own hands because of frustration with federal immigration enforcement. In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies have gained a national reputation for targeting Latinos and unlawfully detaining, questioning, and arresting them for the sole purpose of investigating their immigration status, in violation of federal law. As a result, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s (MCSO) rampant racial profiling has created a culture of fear in Maricopa County among the Latino community, citizens and non-citizens alike.
On behalf of a class of U.S. citizen and legally present Latinos who have been unlawfully racially profiled and questioned about their immigration status, MALDEF brought a lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and Maricopa County for exceeding his authority to enforce immigration law in violation of his MOU agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under §287(g). Additionally, MALDEF alleges that the patterns and practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office violates the plaintiffs’’ rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and several provisions of the Arizona Constitution.
The case was filed on July 16, 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and lead counsel Steptoe & Johnson LLP. In February 2009, the federal court in Arizona denied the motion to dismiss, granting the case to move forward.
The lawsuit seeks to ameliorate the harmful atmosphere of fear and distrust that the Sherriff’s Office has created in the community by putting an end to racial profiling in Maricopa County, and to enjoin the Sheriff and his deputies from continuing to exercise their authority in excess of what has lawfully been delegated to them by federal immigration authorities.