Inmates walk after being ordered by Maricopa County Sheriff Officer Joe Arpaio (R) to be placed into new housing to open up new beds for maximum security inmates on April 17, 2009 in Phoenix, Ariz. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and several of his deputies are facing a lawsuit claiming they illegally arrested, transported and detained a U.S. citizen and a permanent legal resident at a worksite in Phoenix, Ariz., where deputies were conducting an immigration raid.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed the suit August 19 on behalf of Julian Mora, 66, and his son Julio, 19.
The incident took place on February 11, when Julio Mora was driving his dad to work. According to the suit, just 100 yards from where the elder Mora worked at landscaping business Handyman Maintenance, Inc. (HMI), a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office vehicle cut in front of pick-up truck on a busy public road, forcing Mora to slam on his brakes. Another MCSO SUV flanked the truck.
Two deputies ordered the father and son to get out. They were frisked and restrained with tight plastic zip-tie handcuffs and taken to Mora’s workplace, the site of the raid. The two joined over 100 others who were corralled into an area that was said to resemble a heavily guarded armed camp with men wearing masks and carrying semi-automatic rifles.
“Their situation was extremely unique. One of the most egregious aspects to the Moras is the fact that they were not on the worksite. They were stopped and racially profiled during a routine traffic stop, then brought to the worksite. That makes it particularly more problematic and harder for the county to justify,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the Arizona ACLU.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, challenges the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth and the Fourteenth Amendments – which guarantee equal protection and freedom from unreasonable search and seizures and unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and/or national origin. (For an In These TImes feature story on Sheriff Arpaio and his actions, go here.)
The suit also cites several violations of Arizona’s state constitution. The suit is one of the first of its kind to challenge Arapaio’s attempts to enforce the Legal Arizona Workers Act by raiding local businesses to find people suspected of identity theft and fraud. The act, also known as the employer-sanctions law, went into effect in 2008.
The ACLU-Arizona reports that Maricopa County sheriff deputies have stepped up local immigration enforcement raids targeting sites with predominantly%