A U.S. federal judge has ruled that an Arizona sheriff known for his tough policies has been singling out Latinos in immigration patrols and traffic stops.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled Friday in Phoenix that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his officers unfairly targeted Latino drivers when pulling people over for traffic stops and identity checks.
A controversial Arizona law allows law enforcement officers to randomly stop people and check their immigration status.
Snow said Arpaio was using racial profiling to make law enforcement decisions. He said the evidence demonstrates that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office specifically equated being a Hispanic or Mexican day laborer, as opposed to a Caucasian or African American, with being an unauthorized alien.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought last year by a group of Latino drivers who accused Arpaio’s officers of using race to decide which motorists to stop. The lawsuit sought no damages, just corrective action.
The American Civil Liberties Union has praised the ruling. Latino civil rights organizations also praised the ruling and said they looked forward to seeing reforms implemented in the sheriff’s office. Arpaio, who won re-election in November, has not commented but is expected to appeal.
Arizona lies on the U.S. border with Mexico and is often at the center of discussions on immigration policy.