PHOENIX (AP) — A judge who ruled an Arizona sheriff's office had racially profiled Latinos in its signature immigration patrols will hold a hearing Friday to consider proposed changes aimed at ensuring that the agency isn't making unconstitutional traffic stops and arrests.
Attorneys who pressed the case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are expected to ask U.S. District Judge Murray Snow to impose a set of remedies that include beefing up training for officers, requiring better record-keeping on traffic stops and a court-appointed official to monitor the agency's operations to ensure that the judge's orders are being followed.
Three weeks ago, Snow concluded that Arpaio's office has systematically singled out Latinos in its immigration patrols and that sheriff's deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people who were pulled over, marking the first finding by a court that the agency racially profiles people.
The six-term sheriff, who turned 81 years old on Friday, is expected to resist a court-appointed monitor. Arpaio rejected a court-appointed monitor last year when the U.S. Justice Department leveled similar racial profiling allegations against the agency. His objection was that allowing a monitor would mean that every policy decision would have to be cleared through an observer and would nullify his authority.
The May 24 ruling by Snow prompted the sheriff's office, which is expected to appeal the decision, to temporarily suspend all his immigration efforts until Friday's hearing. It's not known whether Arpaio will resume immigration enforcement after the hearing.
The ruling doesn't altogether bar Arpaio from enforcing the state's immigration laws, but imposes a long list of restrictions on his immigration patrols, such as prohibitions on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant and on detaining vehicle passengers who are Latino on only the suspicion that they're in the country illegally.
Arpaio won't face fines or jail time as a result of the ruling. A group of Latinos that first brought the racially profiling allegations to court wasn't seeking damages and instead wanted a declaration that the agency was violating the constitutional rights of Latinos and to force changes in the agency's operations.
The case focused on Latinos who were stopped during both routine traffic patrols and special immigration patrols known as "sweeps."
During the sweeps, deputies flood an area of a city – in some cases, heavily Latino areas – over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Immigrants who were in the country illegally accounted for 57 percent of the 1,500 people arrested in the 20 sweeps conducted by his office since January 2008.
The agency hasn't conducted any sweeps since October 2011, but continued immigration enforcement by enforcing state laws that ban immigrant smuggling and prohibit businesses from employing people who are in the country illegally.
The ruling against the sheriff's office serves as a precursor to a lawsuit filed last year by the U.S. Justice Department, which also alleges racial profiling in Arpaio's immigration patrols. The Department of Justice, however, alleges broader civil rights violations, such as allegations that Arpaio's office retaliates against its critics and punishes Latino jail inmates with limited English skills for speaking Spanish.
Legal experts say the judge presiding over the Department of Justice case isn't bound by Snow's decision and that the racial profiling allegations and evidence could differ between both cases. Still, the latest decision will loom large for participants in the Department of Justice case.