He Never Flinched: A U.S. Citizen Was Detained by the MCSO and Then Testified Before Congress About His Being Racially Profiled


Editor's note: This is one of a group of individual accounts of racial profiling by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's forces. The next personal story will appear on our Web site Wednesday night, December 9.


Just about everyone in Julio Mora's family plays baseball, including his three older brothers and his dad, Julian. Mora, who turns 20 this month, played for years with Little League teams in the Valley, and he has the trophies and medals to prove how good he was.

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You could usually find him playing shortstop, but he'd take on just about any position if need be. He often practiced with his elder brothers and his pop. Only his sister sat out the family games.

"My dad always set us up to play stronger guys, bigger guys," recalled Mora recently over coffee with his wife, Victoria, and their 4-month-old baby, Cecilia, nearby. "So we were never scared of the ball. We were always facing the ball, never pulled away, never closed our eyes. My dad was serious about the sport."

Lessons learned playing baseball with his father held Mora in good stead when he testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in April. Mora was the star witness during a hearing held on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) agreements with local police entities. Such agreements allow cops to enforce federal immigration law.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of ICE's partners in the program, has since lost his federal 287(g) street authority, but he retains it in his jails. The April hearing turned, in part, on how people such as Arpaio misuse that federal grant of power.

Before a raised dais filled with congressmen, the young Mora related the incidents of February 11, 2009, when he and his dad were detained for three hours during a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office immigration raid on H.M.I Landscaping, a firm that, ironically, was contracted with Maricopa County to do clean up around Arpaio's jails.

Mora is an American citizen and was accompanying his father, a legal resident, to his dad's work at H.M.I when two sheriff's SUVs cut them off before they arrived. Without explanation, the pair were zip-tied and brought onto H.M.I.'s property, where they had to endure a long wait.

Julian Mora, a 67-year-old who suffers from diabetes, was refused several requests to use the bathroom. Eventually, sheriff's deputies allowed him to urinate behind a vehicle parked nearby. His son Julio was allowed to go to the bathroom with his hands zip-tied in front of him, as the deputies watched and cracked crude jokes.

The Moras' ordeal is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in August by the American Civil Liberties Union on their behalf. The ACLU contends that the Moras were pulled over because they're brown and because the deputies could see the elder Mora's tejana hat through the windows of his truck. There has never been an allegation that the elder Mora, who was driving, violated any rules of the road.

As the ACLU complaint reads, "The Moras were effectively taken prisoner by armed MCSO personnel without any explanation for their arrest."

Nor was there an explanation when the father and son were cut loose hours later.

Many of the congressmen who heard Julio Mora's account were sympathetic. However, Steve King, a Republican Representative from Iowa, was decidedly not.

He questioned why Mora's dad had not yet become a U.S. citizen after being in the country for more than 30 years. (Though, as Mora pointed out later, his dad has applied to be a citizen and is in the process of becoming one.)

The congressman suggested that Mora senior should have known that some of those working with him at H.M.I. were illegal, and that he should have turned them in.

King then went in for the kill, asking the younger Mora if the ordeal he experienced at the hands of the MCSO outweighed the tragic death of a young girl killed by a DUI driver who happened to be undocumented. The girl's father was at the witness table just down from Mora, there to speak in favor of the 287(g) program.

Like a fast pitch thrown during family practice, Mora didn't flinch. He said he was sorry for the man's loss, despite the congressman's asking him to compare wildly different circumstances. Mora told the congressman that he wanted local police to enforce the law, but "be smart about it."

In other words, not detain American citizens and legal residents just because they happen to be Hispanic.

"That congressman actually caught me off guard," Mora said later. "He came on strong. At first, I froze a little bit; I don't know if anyone noticed. It was the toughest moment of all."

If Mora froze, it wasn't apparent to observers. Afterward, activists and lawyers praised him for his testimony. Mora admitted he had been nervous flying into D.C. for the hearing. It was the first time he'd ever been to another part of the country.

The youngest of his father's children, Mora grew up without his mother, who died of an unknown ailment when he was 6 months old. His father raised the kids as a single dad. Mora's father hails from an impoverished little town in the Mexican state of Nayarit. Both he and his wife came to the United States in 1972.

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7 comments
ProArizona
ProArizona

You did wrong. Your father is illegal and you work with other illegals. Wrong.

Archie1954
Archie1954

They didn't do anything wrong? Wrong! They moved to the US. What worst thing could any Latino do? Besides they are the wrong color and may even speak two languages. Everyone knows only American English may be spoken in the US. How dumb can these people be?

Hank Hill
Hank Hill

AZJayMan: Burke file charges? Shit... That would take a pair of balls. ALL of these politicos are more interested in their NEXT office and therefore unwilling to piss anyone off.

All Democratic incumbants should resign and let someone with a pair of nuts replace them.

We bitch, bitch, bitch about how Republicans are fucking up this state but do any Democratic incumbants actually stand up to these jerks and call them on their shit? Hell no.

As for this kid and his dad, big ups to them. That takes balls; hell, maybe he should run for office.

Stacy
Stacy

I think the line of questioning by that jerk congressman on why Mr. Mora senior hadn't become a US Citizen after being here in this country (Legally) for over 30 years is irrelevant. Here's why: Would it have made a difference on this stop. The deputy pulling them over didn't see a sticker on the car that said, "US Citizen driving". Nor was he wearing a shirt that identified him as a citizen. Heck, not even the AZ Drivers Lic. says that a person is a US Citizen or in his case a legal permanent resident - whom by the way have the very same drivers license.

So the question should be answered by another question..

Q - Why didn't you dad become a citizen?A - Would it have made a difference ?

AZJayMan
AZJayMan

After reading this story, I can think of 5 Constitutional Amendments Joe and his Nazi thugs violated.

4th Amendment: Unlawful search/seizure5th Amendment: Self-Incrimination6th Amendment: Due process of law9th Amendment: All other unenumerated rights 14th Amendment: Due process of law applicable to the state of Arizona.

I offer kudos to these two brave citizens, standing up to fuhrer Arpaio and his Schultzstaffeln officers.

Joe needs to leave the Sheriff's Office in exile. He should be barred from ever enforcing Arizona law or any other law ever again.

I can also tell you that Andy Thomas and Dennis Burke won't file a single charge against Joe.

They are all in bed together. Joe's allowed to continue his abuses, and these "lawyers" allow it to happen.

As for that senator who criticized the Moras' coming forward: You need to resign from public office and be barred from ever seeking public office for the rest of your life.

I offer kudos to those brave men for coming forward and telling their story before members of Congress. Maybe one day the government will wake up and see the atrocities Joe and the Nazis have committed against brown citizens

Walt
Walt

The young man showed what real courage is about when he sat up there and faced that politician that wanted nothing more then a sound bite at the expense of his father and tragic death of a small child.

Republican senator Redneck should be ashamed of himself for asking the victim of one violent act to compare themselves to the victim of a different but much more violent act. He would have been much more appropriate in asking how Scott Norberg compares to the little girl.

How would senator Redneck like an American that has moved to France and lived there for 30 years to answer the question on why he has not become a French citizen? What was the proper answer senator Redneck was looking for?

I highly commend this son for supporting his own wife and child as well as his mother and father on 1 paycheck. When America STOPPED doing this is when America started the slide into high divorce, rampant child abuse, rampant drug and alcohol abuse and all the other fraying of the tapestry that was a multi-generational nuclear family.

How many of you NSM & Neo Nazi members are willing to support you aged parents in your house when they get old and how many plan to ship them off to some old age home to DIE alone and without love?

Again JOB WELL DONE SON. You made true Americans PROUD by standing up to injustice and blind hatred.

El Bruce
El Bruce

His father isn't illegal. You have yet to see proof that anyone who worked there was illegal.

I sure hope you work indoors where you won't get a tan, or else you'll be one of the "wrong" people next.

 
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