Saturday, May 31, 2008

Arizona's Sheriff Accused of Racial Profiling

It's been pretty evident that the Maricopa County Sheriff has been focusing his well-publicized efforts on folks of Latino-appearance. Howard Witt writes in the Chicago Tribune:

The newest tactic in America's quickening effort to gain control of its porous southern border starts with a cracked windshield, a broken taillight or even a failure to signal a right or left turn.

That's all the probable cause sheriff's deputies here in sprawling Maricopa County say they need to pull over a vehicle they suspect might be carrying illegal immigrants.

If the driver or the passengers fail to produce a U.S. driver's license or a proper Immigration visa, if they speak only Spanish, or if they can't otherwise convince the officer they are in the country legally, they are likely to be arrested, jailed and handed off to federal Immigration authorities for deportation.

To Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, these zero-tolerance traffic sweeps, which he recently stepped up in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods across the Phoenix metropolitan area, are a successful tool to root out the undocumented workers that many conservative leaders say have overwhelmed America's fifth-most-populous city just a three-hour drive north of the Mexican border. Arpaio's deputies have arrested more than 500 illegal immigrants so far this year.

"We're hitting this illegal Immigration on all aspects of it," said Arpaio, the elected Republican sheriff for the last 16 years. "We know how to determine whether these guys are illegal, the way the situation looks, how they are dressed, where they are coming from."

But to a growing chorus of Hispanic activists, civil rights leaders and Democratic politicians, Arpaio's policy represents a blatant case of racial profiling. It is an extreme example, they say, of anecdotes that have begun surfacing across the country in which local police agencies respond to the national backlash against illegal immigrants by aggressively targeting Spanish-speakers for the offense of "driving while brown." Click here for the full story.


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