The ruling against Arizona lawmaker Joe Arpaio came in response to a lawsuit filed by Latino drivers that tested whether police can target illegal immigrants without racially profiling U.S. citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin, reports Reuters.
U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow found that Arpaio’s policies violated the drivers’ constitutional rights and ordered the lawmaker’s office “to cease using race or ancestry as a grounds to stop, detain or hold occupants of vehicles” – some of them in crime sweeps dubbed “saturation patrols.”
“The great weight of the evidence is that all types of saturation patrols at issue in this case incorporated race as a consideration into their operations,” Snow said in a written ruling.
The judge went on, adding that race had factored into which vehicles the deputies decided to stop, and into who they decided to investigate for immigration violations.
The investigation found that Arpaio, who proclaimed himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” and his officers violated the rights of both U.S. citizens and legal immigrants alike in their zeal to crack down on people they believe to be in the country illegally.
Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project and plaintiffs’ counsel, called the judge’s ruling “an important victory that will resound far beyond Maricopa County.”
“Singling people out for traffic stops and detentions simply because they’re Latino is illegal and just plain un-American,” Wang said after the ruling was made public.
“Let this be a warning to anyone who hides behind a badge to wage their own private campaign against Latinos or immigrants that there is no exception in the Constitution for violating people’s rights in immigration enforcement.”
The lawbreaker redused to comment on the ruling. His spokesperson referred a request for comment to attorney Tim Casey, who said he was reading the ruling and had no immediate comment.
The rulinf comes a few days after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan “gang of eight” immigration bill.
All Democrats on the committee, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and gang of eight Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), voted on passing the bill, which will now be directed to the Senate floor.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who didn’t approve the passed bill, said he would support allowing it to move forward for debate – rather than joining a filibuster – once on the Senate floor.
Democrats seemed equally pleased to vote the bill out of committee.
“The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform,” Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said before the bill’s passage.
“I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action. We need an immigration system that lives up to American values and helps write the next great chapter in American history by reinvigorating our economy and enriching our communities.”
President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for 2014, welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.
“I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.