ACLU: No Record of Arpaio Saying Physical Appearance is Basis for Police Questioning

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps a filthy, dangerous jail and brags about targeting illegal immigrants.

But a statement in a recent federal court ruling that claims Arpaio said publicly that a person's immigration status should be questioned on "physical appearance alone" is apparently not true. We questioned the American Civil Liberties Union about the statement after the ruling, and received this candid answer from Dan Pochoda (right), an ACLU lawyer in the racial profiling lawsuit:

The ruling "overstates" Arpaio's public statements, Pochoda says.

Before we heard from Pochoda, ACLU lawyers provided to New Times some statements from Arpaio that lend support to their racial profiling case:

5/21/06 (Washington Post) - "If you get caught by immigration, you get a free ride back to Mexico in an air conditioned bus; A free ride? Not in my county. I'm going to put them on chain gangs, in tents and feed them bologna sandwiches." "We have 3,000 Hispanics out of 10,000 [in jail]. One thousand of the 3,000 are illegal, so they should be learning English in jail."

5/26/08 (Chicago Tribune)- "We're hitting this illegal immigration on all aspects of it," "We know how to determine whether these guys are illegal, the way the situation looks, how they are dressed, where they are coming from." (Co. Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox: "If you are of Mexican-American heritage, if you have brown skin, there is nothing you can do not to be stopped").

3/2/07 (Arizona Republic)- discussing his 287g authority: "Ours is an operation where we want to go after illegals, not the crime first." "It's a pure program. You go after them, and you lock them up."

10/4/07 (MCSO Press Release) - headline: "SHERIFF ARPAIO GOES AFTER DAY LABORERS"; "There is no sanctuary in this country for those who violate the law. As far as I am concerned the only sanctuary for illegal aliens is in Mexico."

The statements raise questions of potential abuses of civil rights, but stop short of the race-baiting verbiage attributed to Arpaio in the ruling by U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia (pictured below) used in her ruling:

With respect to whether Plaintiffs have sufficiently plead a discriminatory purpose, the Complaint is replete with references to acts of intentional discrimination by Defendants against Plaintiffs on the basis of race. Examples of such intentional discrimination include allegations that Defendant Arpaio made a public statement that physical appearance alone is sufficient to question an individual about their immigration status, that MCSO's crime suppression sweeps have been allegedly targeted at areas having a high concentration of Hispanics, and that the MCSO has used volunteers to assist in these crime sweeps who have known animosity towards Hispanics and immigrants.

The case hardly hinges on alleged public statements, says Pochoda.

"We believe it will be clearly shown -- and easier than in most racial profiling cases -- that his organized principle for stopping cars was race," he says.

Indeed -- with this judge, the ACLU might be heading for a slam dunk.

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