After a decade of police abuse and harassment, the Latino community of Maricopa County, Arizona just won a huge victory when a federal court found that Sheriff Joe Arpaio violated the constitutional rights of Latinos. For the past 10 years, the infamous Arpaio has conducted raids aimed at singling out a group of people based on their appearance and ancestry.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona found that the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against arbitrary searches and seizures. It also violated the 14th Amendment, which requires states to provide equal protection under law within their jurisdictions to all people, not just citizens.
The decision, which agrees with an earlier lower court ruling, is more than a win. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow sent a message to the nation, as well as states and municipalities that saw the sheriff’s behavior as an example to follow.
For years, Arpaio has been at the forefront of an anti-immigrant movement. The court’s decision is an important turning point, highlighting how far that minority anti-immigrant vision has fallen. It also shows broader support for a humane, comprehensive immigration reform.
Joe Arpaio, self-styled as “America’s toughest sheriff,” has for years made national headlines because of his popularity and anti-immigrant policies. But on this issue being hotly debated today in Washington, immigration reform, the tide has quickly turned. And Arpaio’s racial profiling and illegal detentions helped push the urgency of overhauling the immigration system. At the same time, thanks to this court decision, they have set a legal precedent.
During an immigration debate, Arpaio once said “If you don’t like the law, change the law.” In Maricopa County, the law changed, with national implications. Washington is next.