Friday, July 20, 2012

Arizona Sheriff Goes to Trial Over Immigration Crackdown

Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, went on trial today over allegations his office racially profiled Latinos and arbitrarily stopped them as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow in Phoenix will hear evidence that Arpaio’s so-called saturation patrols, which started in 2007 and have included hundreds of volunteer posse members, used pretextual traffic stops to arrest Latinos who they suspected were illegal immigrants and who weren’t suspected of having committed a crime.

Stanley Young, a lawyer for the five individuals who sued Arpaio, said in his opening statement he intended to demonstrate “denigration of Hispanics and lack of supervision to prevent racial profiling.”

“It is our view the problem starts from the top,” Young told Snow, who will decide the case without a jury. “We hope the court will compel the MCSO to honor the constitution and put into practice procedures used by other law enforcement agencies to prevent racial discrimination.”

Saturation Patrols

Timothy Casey, a lawyer for the sheriff’s office, said in his opening statement that, “evidence shows that race and ethnicity had nothing to do with traffic stops.”

“Arpaio does not select sites for saturation patrols and has never suggested a site based on a citizen letter,” Casey said. The patrols were planned “based upon an area’s crime history -- ethnicity of the constituency played no role.”

The class-action lawsuit was brought on behalf of all Latinos who, since January 2007, have been stopped, detained, questioned or searched by the sheriff office’s agents in Maricopa County. The judge in December ordered the office not to detain people based only on reasonable belief or knowledge they are illegal aliens.

“While MCSO officers can, of course, continue to investigate federal and state criminal law, including immigration-related criminal law, to stop people pursuant to such law, officers must have reasonable suspicion that the person is violating that law,” Snow said in his Dec. 23 decision.

Being in the U.S. without proper authorization is a civil violation and isn’t in itself a crime, the judge said.

U.S. Citizens

Of the five named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, four are U.S. citizens and one had a valid visa when he was stopped.

They seek a court order that their constitutional rights were violated, including their right to equal protection under the law and their right not to be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures. They want the judge to order changes in the sheriff’s office and to appoint a monitor to oversee compliance.

Lawyers for the sheriff’s office said in court filings that the plaintiffs were stopped by deputies because they were violating state traffic laws, not because they were Latino. The deputies at the time of traffic stops were certified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce both criminal and civil federal immigration law, according to a June 2011 filing.

“The illegal immigrants identified in the county are generally not from China, the Caribbean, North Africa, Eastern Europe, or the Indian subcontinent,” the sheriff’s lawyers said. “The fact that most illegal immigrants discovered in Maricopa County are from Mexico, and thus Latino by definition, is neither shocking nor indicative of racial animus against Latinos.”

‘Crime Suppression’

Arpaio’s department covers Arizona’s biggest county by population, with 3.8 million residents. His methods, including the saturation patrols or “crime suppression” sweeps in predominantly Latino areas in and around Phoenix, the state’s largest city, have made him a hero to groups seeking a crackdown on illegal entrants to the U.S. and a target of advocates for immigrants’ rights.

The case, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, involves allegations similar to those made by the U.S. Justice Department in a civil lawsuit filed in May against Maricopa County and Arpaio.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit accuses the sheriff of “intentionally and systematically” discriminating against Latinos. Arpaio, who has been elected five times and served 20 years in office, said in response to the U.S. lawsuit that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is going after him to court Latino voters.

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down much of Arizona’s first-of-its-kind state law against illegal immigrants, ruling that states must defer to the federal government on immigration policy, an election-year victory for Obama.

The high court invalidated criminal restrictions that would have barred those in the U.S. illegally from seeking work or being in Arizona without proper documentation. The court didn’t block a requirement that local police check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally, while leaving open the possibility of later challenges.

The Supreme Court’s decision may undercut similar laws in other states and will have repercussions for the November presidential election as Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney vie for Hispanic votes.

Supporters of Arizona’s law said the federal government isn’t doing enough to crack down on an estimated 11.5 million people in the country illegally.


UK Immigration Officials Threaten Strike Action During Olympics

One hopes they do  strike.  It might force the government to drop its insane staff cutbacks.  The staffing is not sufficient to get people through immigration promptly already.  Cutting frontline staff instead of bureaucrats is just plain incompetent

U.K. immigration officers will decide Thursday whether to hold strikes during the Olympic Games, a move that could cause chaos at Britain's borders as hundreds of thousands of extra tourists arrive for the event meant to showcase London and the rest of the country to the world.

The Public and Commercial Services Union said Wednesday 57.2% of members who voted were in favor of striking to protest job cuts, pay and conditions, while 75.8% supported other forms of industrial action.

The country's largest civil service trade union said ballots were sent to the 15,700 union members who work for the Home Office, and 20% responded. The PCS represents around 5,000 Border Agency staff.

Thursday's meeting of union leaders will decide on whether to mount a protest, and if so, specify the nature of industrial action and date, a union spokesman said in a statement.

"Ministers have known about these issues for a very long time but have chosen not to act," General Secretary Mark Serwotka said. "We believe they have acted recklessly and irresponsibly in cutting so many jobs and, in the case of U.K. Border Agency, they have simply tried to paper over the cracks by deploying severely undertrained staff at our borders."

Immigration Minister Damian Green urged the union not to take protest action, saying a strike would be "irresponsible."

"Any action that disrupts the Olympics will be completely unacceptable and the public will not support it," he said in a statement. "Only about one in 10 PCS members voted for strike action."

Mr. Green said if industrial action goes ahead, the government will use its "trained pool of contingency staff" to minimize any disruptions.

In May, the government was forced to draft extra immigration officers to man border controls at Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest international passenger airport, after passengers were caught in huge queues for passport checks. The government has vowed that immigration desks will be fully staffed during the Olympics, for which the U.K. expects to greet an estimated 600,000 overseas visitors more than would normally arrive during that period.

In the past week the government has had to deploy thousands of additional army and police officers to provide security for the games after G4S Plc said it would have problems delivering the number of guards contracted.

The PCS union said government spending cut are affecting the Border Agency's ability to function and are "completely unsustainable."

The government is reducing the budget of the agency, responsible for passport control at all ports of entry, 20% by 2015 as part of a GBP79 billion ($124 billion) spending cut aimed at narrowing the country's deficit.

The union says the agency has already cut 5,300 of 7,000 jobs it plans to eliminate by 2015.


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