Yesterday, Ohio Sheriff Richard K. Jones appeared in federal court facing charges that he violated the constitutional rights of an undocumented immigrant. The plaintiff, Luis Rodriguez, claims that Jones infringed on his 4th and 14th amendment rights. Cincinnati’s Local 12 channel reports:
[Officials [police] said they were at the site to talk to a supervisor about undocumented workers, but while there Rodriguez and others were interrogated and asked to provide identification, said Rodriguez’s attorney, Al Gerhardstein. Gerhardstein said his client, who had lived in Butler County for 11 years, was arrested and charged with providing a false identification and was deported to Mexico, though he was later acquitted of the charge.
Rodriguez is seeking damages and also trying to establish the principle that there aren’t any exceptions to the Fourth or 14th amendments.
The deputization of immigration law has become a growing trend and rampant allegations of racial profiling and civil rights violations have proliferated alongside it. Immigration hardliners often argue that Jones and other sheriffs who take a similar approach to the immigrant community have done no wrong because they are dealing with a population to whom the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply. However, the American Civil Liberties Union points out that both the language and intent with which it was written suggests otherwise:
The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every “person” and are not limited to citizens. The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as the authors and ratifiers of post-Civil War amendments, all understood the essential importance of protecting non-citizens against governmental abuse and discrimination…Upholding the rights of immigrants is important to us all. When the government has the power to deny legal rights and due process to one vulnerable group, everyone’s rights are at risk.
Back in 2006, NPR reported that Jones was on a mission to “prod and shame the federal government into more action” on the immigration issue. Back then, Jones went as far to implement mass arrests of Latino workers and put a big yellow sign proclaiming “Illegal Aliens Here” in front of the county jail to “let people know that there are illegals here, and it is a problem, and we want some help.” Nonetheless, when Congress tried to address the problem in 2007, Jones was part of the “anti-immigrant minority” that was “dancing in the streets” over the bill’s failure.