A legal alien migrant worker and Mexican citizen is suing Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio saying that he was unlawfully detained as a result of the sheriff's department's immigration enforcement policies. He is claiming that he is a victim of racial profiling.
The plaintiff, Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, was in a vehicle that was driven by a white man when it was stopped by deputies on Sept. 26. Ortega was asked to produce ID. The lawsuit says he was detained for about eight hours before an ICE agent verified his documents and had him released.
Capt. Paul Chagolia of the Maricopa SD told the Arizona Republic that Ortega was detained because he told deputies that he was looking for work even though he was in the country on a tourist visa.
The suit is seeking, among other things, a judicial declaration that the sheriff's immigration-enforcement actions are unconstitutional. It is also seeking an injunction to stop the department from using an illegal-immigrant hotline and a court order disbanding the department's illegal immigration interdiction unit.
"Our investigations show that the Sheriff's Office has routinely exceeded their authority and shown a blatant disregard for the civil rights of individuals in Maricopa County," Lou Moffa, an attorney for the plaintiff, told the Arizona Republic.
Arpaio told the paper that the lawsuit was "frivolous." He added that it was an attempt to intimidate him before his officers begin enforcing a new state law that sanctions employers for hiring illegal aliens. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
"There is no racial profiling," Arpaio said. "I don't go around the street corner grabbing 10 people because they look like they're from Mexico." He also says his deputies have not exceeded their authority and have the authority to enforce immigration law if they encounter a person "in the course of their duties."
"We're going to keep doing our job," Arpaio said. "We're going to keep arresting illegal aliens."