Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Sued, Again

A Latina U.S. citizen says she was racially profiled and kept in jail.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is accused of racially profiling a Latino rights group's organizer and then keeping her in jail despite her U.S. citizenship.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is accused of racially profiling a Latino rights group's organizer and then keeping her in jail despite her U.S. citizenship.
Laura Segall/Reuters

One month after losing his reelection bid, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is facing yet another lawsuit accusing his office of racial profiling in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman, a field director for the Latino advocacy group Mijente, filed a suit Thursday against the man who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and Maricopa County over her arrest and detention earlier this year. She claims that the sheriff’s office racially profiled her and unconstitutionally detained her based on a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ― even though she is a U.S. citizen.

The system that entangled her is the same one President-elect Donald Trump, an Arpaio ally, wants to force upon every jurisdiction: coordination between police and immigration enforcement that, allegedly in this instance, resulted in mistreatment by both.

She was arrested in March after obstructing a highway as part of a protest against Trump’s presidential candidacy. Gonzalez said she was taken to a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jail, where she told law enforcement that she was a U.S. citizen and showed them her driver’s license, but she was then questioned by an ICE officer. She was arrested with two other protesters who were not Latino and were not questioned by ICE, according to the lawsuit.

Gonzalez says in the lawsuit that after she declined to answer questions about her citizenship without talking to an attorney, the ICE officer called her a “pain-in-the-ass illegal.” The officer then issued a detainer request to hold her for immigration purposes, falsely claiming that she was in deportation proceedings and that she had made statements indicating she was undocumented, according to the lawsuit.

The jail continued to hold her even after a judge ordered her released the night of her arrest. She was placed in solitary confinement overnight and then taken in the morning to an ICE facility, where she was released once they discovered she was a U.S. citizen, according to the lawsuit.

“Because my last name is Gonzalez I was treated differently in Arpaio’s jail,” she said in a statement Thursday. “I was interrogated differently and ultimately I was held in custody with no legal basis all because [of] how the sheriff views people like me.”

A spokesperson for ICE said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, even if it is not a defendant. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Arpaio, whose 24-year tenure ends next month, is infamous for his treatment of prisoners and undocumented immigrants, including forcing jail inmates to wear pink underwear and conducting sweeps that targeted Latinos. He was charged with criminal contempt earlier this year for continuing immigration patrols in violation of a court order over racial profiling.

His defeat by Democrat Paul Penzone on Nov. 8 was a sliver of good news for immigrant rights advocates, who suffered a major blow with the election of Trump last month. Trump has applauded Arpaio’s immigration enforcement efforts and says he will punish so-called sanctuary cities that do not honor all of ICE’s requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

Currently, ICE issues detainers to local law enforcement agencies when it suspects that someone in custody is undocumented, but local law enforcement is not required to comply. Some jurisdictions have opted against full compliance, often based on concerns it could hurt community policing efforts by making undocumented immigrants fearful of law enforcement. There are also debates about whether detainers are legal. In 2014, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that a county had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a woman by holding her based on an ICE request for longer than she would have been held otherwise.

The lawsuit filed Thursday seeks a result similar to the 2014 ruling.

“Sheriff Arpaio’s office claims that the Constitution applies differently to immigration arrests — this lawsuit is intended to set that straight,” Mark Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center, one of the organizations representing Gonzalez, said in a statement. “There is only one U.S. Constitution and the Fourth Amendment applies equally to every arrest.”