Tucson, Ariz. — In a ruling that came as no surprise to Arizona’s oppressed and terrorized Latino/a community, a federal judge ruled on May 24 that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his officers are guilty of racial profiling. This decision was in response to a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of five Latino drivers who had been stopped by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s 142-page decision includes Findings of Fact in the case, which covers the period beginning in 2007. They detail the racism that is endemic to the MCSO and cite specific operational plans and instructions given to its 800 deputies on how to target Latinos/as, primarily by conducting traffic stops. (The ruling is posted on the American Civil Liberties Union web site at tinyurl.com/nj9n8ewe.)
In December 2011, Judge Snow sanctioned Arpaio for destroying records relevant to the case. This resulted in the understatement of the statistics cited in the findings as “proof” of racism.
With his recent decision, the judge issued an injunction against Arpaio and MCSO, ordering them to cease and desist from “using race [or Latino ancestry] as any factor in making law enforcement decisions pertaining to whether a person is authorized to be in the country.” Arpaio and the MCSO have ignored previous court injunctions.
Isabel Garcia, community activist, who is the chair of Tucson’s Coalition de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition), responded to the court’s decision. She told Workers World, “This ruling was a necessary truth-telling. The Arpaio reign of terror on our communities, unfortunately, was permitted for so long by the political forces around us, from the politicians exploiting fear, the conservative and complicit media, big business and even the legal system.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, whose department just locked down the entire city of Boston, Mass., should be very familiar with Arpaio’s terror campaign. Napolitano was Arizona’s attorney general from 1999 to 2003 and then its governor from 2003 until 2009. It was during her term as governor that Arpaio’s jailers implemented some of the most horrific practices. Napolitano remained silent when Arpaio and his deputies laid siege to the small town of Guadelupe, Ariz., in April 2008. (tinyurl.com/396bkz2)
When terror is directed against entire communities of people of color, as in Arpaio’s case, the media never classify that as “terrorism.” When the perpetrators of terror are cops, deputies or border patrol agents, the courts can rarely be counted on to intervene. When they do, the outcome is never justice.
Activists must continue to organize and fight to keep these racist cops, deputies and border patrol agents out of our communities. Terror like that unleashed by Arpaio doesn’t just exist in Arizona. Garcia stressed, “We must continue to challenge those policies like [racist, anti-immigrant law] SB1070, and many Arpaio-like laws that exist across Arizona and the rest of the country.”