Monday, December 26, 2011

Judge rules against Arizona sheriff in immigrant stops

A federal judge on Friday barred high profile Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio from detaining people simply for being in the country illegally, in a ruling that faulted the local lawman for enforcing federal immigration law.

The 40-page written opinion by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow came on the same day he issued legal sanctions against Arpaio over destroyed documents.

The decisions come as a further blow for the controversial sheriff, who already has faced rebukes from the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Both rulings by Snow stemmed from a 2007 civil lawsuit against Arpaio and his agency, which accuses his officers of racial profiling of Latinos in traffic stops the judge found were conducted as immigration sweeps.

The judge also said officers with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department (MCSO), which covers Phoenix and surrounding areas, circulated emails that "compared Mexicans to dogs" and portrayed them "as drunks."

"Local law enforcement agencies, such as MCSO, may not enforce civil federal immigration law," Snow said in his written opinion. He added that the sheriff's agency was "hereby enjoined" from detaining "any person based only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States."

In his ruling, Snow also granted a request by plaintiffs to certify the lawsuit as a class action.

He defined the class action as encompassing all Latinos "stopped, detained, questioned or searched" by Arpaio's officers "while driving or sitting in a vehicle" on roads or parking areas in Maricopa County.


Snow also cited the admitted destruction of emails and patrol records by Arpaio's office related to the case. He noted the sheriff's agency never contested those documents were shredded rather than lost.

Further proceedings in the case are expected to be decided by Snow rather than a jury because the plaintiffs have not requested a jury trial.

Snow's sanctions against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office were outlined in written opinions issued a day after the judge heard oral arguments on the matter.

Separately last week, the U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report accusing Arpaio and his deputies of engaging in a "pervasive culture of discriminatory bias" and violating civil rights laws by singling out Latinos for unlawful detention and arrests.

The same day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security barred Arpaio's deputies from screening jail inmates for their immigration status.

Arpaio was given until January 4 to agree to negotiations addressing the abuses cited by the Justice Department or face a request for a court order requiring compliance.

The Justice Department's report and the similar allegations raised in the lawsuit relate to Arpaio's controversial efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in Maricopa County.

Those efforts have earned him accolades in conservative political circles. Several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination sought his endorsement, which ultimately went to Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Arpaio has denied that his department engages in racial profiling and accused the Justice Department under President Barack Obama of undermining immigration enforcement.

The sheriff was a strong supporter of controversial new Arizona law SB 1070, requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect of being in the country illegally.

That law is under challenge by the Obama administration in a case the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide next year.


In family horror, some Canadians see culture clash

On a summer morning in 2009, in canal locks east of Toronto, police made a grisly discovery: In a submerged Nissan car were the bodies of three teenage sisters and a 52-year-old woman.

A joyride gone tragically wrong, claimed the father, Mohammad Shafia, 58, who reported the disappearance. An "honor killing," prosecutors allege. A murder trial is under way, heating up a national debate about how to better absorb immigrants into the Canadian cultural mainstream.

The prosecution accuses Afghan-born Shafia, his wife, and their 20-year-old son of killing the daughters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and going online. The older victim was Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, who was living with him and his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, in Montreal. It was a polygamous relationship, the court has been told, and if revealed, could have resulted in their deportation.

The parents and son, Hamed, have pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder.

The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Yahya because his first wife could not have children. The second marriage produced seven children.

The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, the court has heard. Zainab, the oldest at 19, was forbidden to attend school for a year because she had a young Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend, and she fled to a shelter, terrified of her father, the court was told.

The jury heard testimony that Zainab's sisters, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, were hounded and trailed by their brothers because the parents suspected them of dating boys; that Sahar repeatedly said her father would kill her if he found out she had a boyfriend; that she had bruises on her arms; that Mohammad, the first wife who was helping to raise the children, also was brutally treated.

Zainab ran away from home for a couple of weeks and her sisters contacted authorities, saying they wanted to be removed from the home because of violence and their father's strict parenting, the prosecution said.

Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle presented wire taps and cell phone records from the Shafia family in court. In one phone conversation, the father says his daughters "betrayed us immensely."

Fazil Javad, Shafia's brother-in-law, said Shafia tried to enlist him in a plan to drown Zainab.

"Even if they hoist me up to the gallows, nothing is more dear to me than my honor. There is nothing more valuable than our honor," Lacelle quoted Shafia as saying in an intercept transcript.

Taking the stand and speaking in his native Dari through an interpreter, Shafia portrayed himself as a loving father with his daughters' best interests at heart. He repeated his contention that the famil members were returning from a Niagara Falls holiday, were in two cars, and were overnighting at a motel when Zainab took one of the cars.

The daughters met an accidental but "rightful" death for their disobedience, he said.

"You believe there's no value in life without honor, don't you?" asked Lacelle in cross-examination. "My honor is important to me," Shafia replied. "But you can't regain your honor with murder, respected lady, you must know that. "I'm a strict Muslim, but I'm not a killer."

Other relatives — two of the children and a brother-in-law of Shafia — testified in support of the joyride scenario and portrayed the family as loving and caring.

The trial then adjourned for the holidays and will resume on Jan. 9.

Canada takes in 250,000 immigrants a year, more per capita than anywhere save Australia, and in recent years a number of so-called honor killings have prompted debate about absorbing immigrants into the mainstream and dealing with culture clashes between immigrant parents and their children. Even before the trial, Rona Ambrose, the women's affairs minister, had said the federal government was considering making such killings a separate category in the criminal code.

Her office has not replied to recent questions about whether the change is going through, and the debate continues about the larger issues the Shafia case has raised about assimilating immigrants.

More than 80 Canadian Muslim organizations, imams and community leaders have signed a call for action against "the reality of domestic violence within our own communities, compounded by abhorrent and yet persistent pre-Islamic practices rooted in the misguided notion of restoring family honor."

On the other hand, statistically, nonimmigrant Canadians have a higher rate of murdering spouses and children, in some instances, also over family dishonor. Jeffrey Reitz, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in immigration issues, warns against using the term honor killings and equating it with any specific culture.

"If you label it an honor killing, the tendency is to say, 'Oh, what a terrible culture that is,' and the problem (of domestic violence) stems across cultural groups," he said.

The United Nations reports 5,000 females a year are victims of honor killings around the world. In Canada, social worker Aruna Papp says she has counted 15 cases since 2002, while psychiatrist Amin Muhammad, commissioned to write a report for the government about honor killings in Canada, predicts there will be more as immigrant communities grow, bringing in some newcomers with militant cultural beliefs.

"Immigrants who come here can't bring their own mindsets with them. They can't practice their own cultural ideologies if they go against the grain," he said.

The government must do more, and offer services that are more visible and accessible, especially to non-English-speakers, he said.

Tarek Fatah, the Pakistani-born founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, is a fierce opponent of Islamic militancy. He says it is shocking that honor killings are happening in Canada, calling them "a slap in the face of our fundamental value of what it is to be a human being."

Papp, the social worker who wrote a report on honor killings for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a privately funded conservative think tank, worries that domestic violence rooted in family honor has spread to second-generation families. She argues for tougher background checks on would-be immigrants, as well as teaching immigrants Canadian rights and values.

Papp, who is of Indian descent, speaks from experience. "I came here when I was 21, with a third-grade education. I had children when I was young. I didn't know how to properly parent," she said. "I did and said things I didn't know at the time were wrong, things my parents did and said to me growing up that were acceptable within the Indian culture. It's a learning process. Parents, especially immigrant parents, need to be taught parenting skills and what's acceptable behavior here."


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