Over the decades, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies have pulled over and arrested countless numbers of suspected undocumented immigrants and Latinos in Arizona, as a way to enforce federal immigration law. His department has been accused of racial profiling by routinely stopping Latinos or darker-skinned people in the name of public safety. And Arpaio never stopped using his authority to throw alleged immigration violators in prison or to employ racial discrimination even when ordered to do so by a judge.
Now, U.S. Department of Justice officials say that they will file criminal contempt-of-court charges against Arpaio because he wouldn’t stop targeting immigrants and Latinos in spite of a judge’s order, the Associated Press reported.
Prior to these criminal charges, Arpaio and chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan continued to target Latinos months after U.S. District Judge Murray Snow issued a court order in August for them to stop. At the time, Snow also said that Arpaio may have given false statements under oath “in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrongdoing or negligence.” But Snow left it up to federal prosecutors to bring the criminal case.
In December 2011, Arpaio’s department was prohibited by a federal court to enforce federal immigration laws, but his deputies allegedly continued to do up to 18 months after the order.
Arpaio could see six months worth of prison time if he is convicted of misdemeanor contempt, “largely because of [his] age,” the Arizona Republic reported. He is 84 years old. His court case is set for December 6. His lawyer has asked for a jury trial.
Arpaio lawyer Mel McDonald said that the sheriff will plead not guilty “by court filing and hopes to prevail before a jury,” the AP reported.
“We believe the sheriff, being an elected official, should be judged by his peers,” McDonald said.
The Arizona sheriff previously made insincere efforts to address racial biases, including holding court-required community outreach meetings in districts with few Latino residents and declining to show up at meetings. He has even been ordered a court-appointed monitor for his unconstitutional racial profiling tactics, although he did not take that seriously.
As the self-named “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio and his deputies have put immigrants and Latinos through appalling conditions after they have been arrested. He keeps detainees in his outdoor jail known as “Tent City.” He and deputies have undertaken immigration raids against restaurants, car washes, and other places of employment, allegedly arresting children as young as 6 and pregnant women. He even once promised to issue automatic weapons to his deputies to catch “illegal aliens attempting to escape.”
Most recently, Arpaio spoke at the Republican National Convention earlier this summer to support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s policy promise to build a wall. But Arpaio’s support for Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may hurt the presidential candidate in the long run if he’s elected. Arpaio has been involved in several racial profiling lawsuits, which was estimated to cost around $48 million for taxpayers so far to implement court recommendations to fix his acts racial bias. Trump has openly advocated for the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, which could trigger lawsuits on a much larger scale than what Arpaio has gone through.