Melendres Case


TED: JOE ARPAIO'S REFERAL FROM CRIMINAL CHARGES STEMS FROM THE MELENDRES CASE, A 2007 CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE FOR UNLAWFUL RACIAL PROFILING OF HISPANICS DURING IMMIGRATION SWEEPS AND TRAFFIC STOPS.
HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE MELENDRES CASE IS TERRY GREENE STERLING, A JOURNALIST AND WRITER IN RESIDENCE AT ASU'S WALTER CRONKITE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATIONS. AND JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK OF KJZZ RADIO. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS CASE, THIS GOES BACK QUITE A WAY, WHAT GOT ALL OF THIS STARTED?
TERRY GREENE: WELL, AT THE ROOT OF IT WAS A -- I THINK AN INTENSE FEAR AMONG MANY ARIZONANS OF IMMIGRANTS. AND WHAT HAPPENED IN 2007, 2006 -- 2006 AND 2007, WAS ARPAIO WAS BECOMING MORE AND MORE INTERESTED IN ENFORCING IMMIGRATION BECAUSE HIS -- THE LAWS WERE CHANGING, A, ARIZONA STATE LAWS WERE CHANGING, AND B, HIS CONSTITUENCY WAS ASKING HIM TO DO IT. THE MORE HE DID IT, THE MORE PUBLICITY HE GOT AND THE MORE VOTES SO THAT'S WHAT STARTED US OFF. ON THE OTHER SIDE, YOU HAVE PEOPLE OF COLOR IN ARIZONA WHO HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST IN ARIZONA. WHO FINALLY, FINALLY TOOK A STAND IN 2007 AND 2008 AND INITIATED THIS HISTORIC INTENSELY DRAMATIC COURT CASE THAT'S HARDLY DRY.
TED: 2007, WHO FILED THE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ON BEHALF OF WHOM?
JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: WELL, THE CASE BEGINS WITH MANUEL JESUS ORTEGA MELENDRES, WHO WAS AT A CHURCH WORK SITE AREA THAT HAD BEEN SET UP FOR DAY LABORERS TO GET PICKED UP FOR JOBS AND THERE HAD BEEN A CITIZEN'S COMPLAINT. THERE WAS A LOT OF TENSION, IT WAS A DAY LABORERS CENTER AT A CHURCH IN CAVE CREEK AND THERE WAS TENSION OVER WHETHER IT SHOULD EXIST AND SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES WERE ASKED TO INVESTIGATE WHAT WAS GOING ON AND ENDED UP DOING A STING OPERATION AND PULLING OVER A VEHICLE. IT TURNED OUT THAT MR. MELENDRES ACTUALLY WAS A LEGAL IMMIGRANT AND HE WAS A TOURIST AND HE HAD THE RIGHT PAPERWORK TO BE IN THE COUNTRY. HE ENDED UP FILING A SUIT BECAUSE HE WAS DETAINED FOR HOURS.THE SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES ASSUMED HE WAS UNDOCUMENTED. AND HE SPENT HOURS, CUFFED VERY TIGHTLY, HIS WRIST, HE HAD A BAD WRIST AND WAS IN A LOT OF PAIN AND TREATED VERY BADLY AND HE FILED HIS LAWSUIT AND IT LATER BECAME A CLASS ACTION WHEN OTHER LATINOS WHO ACTUALLY WERE U.S. CITIZENS COMPLAINED ABOUT BEING DETAINED DURING IMMIGRATION SWEEPS AND OTHER KIND OF TRAFFIC STOPS.
TED: AND TWO WERE SIBLINGS, I BELIEVE, FROM CHICAGO. ANOTHER PERSON WHO WAS DETAINED WAS AN ASSISTANT FOR THEN MAYOR PHIL GORDON, CORRECT?
TERRY GREENE: THAT'S RIGHT. THERE WERE A LOT OF FASCINATING CASES. AND AGAIN, THEY WERE AMERICAN CITIZENS. FOR THE MOST PART, WHO WERE DETAINED AND THEY SAID HUMILIATED. OBVIOUSLY DETAINED FOR THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN. AS THE SHERIFF HAD ORDERED THESE IMMIGRATION-THEMED TRAFFIC STOPS.
TED: YES, SO THE JUDGE ORDERED TRAINING CHANGES, PROCEDURAL CHANGES, LIKE RADIO IN TO EXPLAIN WHY YOU'RE STOPPING THE CAR BEFORE YOU STOP THE CAR. THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE DOES WHAT?
JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: LET ME BACK UP. EVEN BEFORE THAT, THOSE ORDERS CAME IN 2013 AFTER THE CONCLUSION OF THE TRIAL.
TED: WE HAD A 2011 SITUATION.
JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: THERE WAS A 2011 ORDER CRITICAL TO UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEMPT OF COURT ISSUE. IN 2011, AND LET ME ADD EVEN BEFORE 2011, THERE WERE ALREADY ISSUES WITH THE SHERIFF'S LAWYERS GETTING IN TROUBLE FOR NOT TURNING OVER CERTAIN DOCUMENTS THAT WERE OWED IN THE DISCOVERY PROCESS, EVEN BEFORE THIS ITERATION, THERE WERE ISSUES FROM THE GET-GO OF WITHHOLDING DOCUMENTATION THAT THE JUDGES WOUND UP SANCTIONING THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE FOR EVEN BEFORE TRIAL. BACK TO 2011, THAT'S WHEN JUDGE SNOW MAKES HIS FIRST BIG ORDER IN THE CASE AND HE SAYS THAT HE WANTS IT TO GO TO TRIAL TO DECIDE WHETHER THE SHERIFF -- WHETHER THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE WAS DISCRIMINATING AGAINST LATINOS BUT BEFORE THAT, HE KNOWS RIGHT NOW, HE CAN RULE ON ANOTHER QUESTION, WHETHER THE SHERIFF HAS THE AUTHORITY DO IMMIGRATION STOPS AND WHETHER THEY CAN DETAIN PEOPLE ONLY ON THE SUSPICION THAT THEY'RE IN THE COUNTRY ILLEGALLY WHEN THERE'S NO OTHER STATE-RELATED CRIMINAL CHARGES AND SO IN 2011, THE JUDGE MAKES THIS RULING, WE'RE GOING TO GO FORWARD WITH THE TRIAL BUT IN THE MEANTIME, YOU NEED TO STOP MAKING IMMIGRATION ARRESTS.AS A LOCAL STATE AGENCY, YOU DON'T HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE THESE STOPS, THAT'S FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. AND EARLIER, THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE DID HAVE A PARTNERSHIP WITH ICE WHERE THEY DID HAVE THAT AUTHORITY BUT THAT HAD NOT BEEN RENEWED AND THE JUDGE WAS TRYING TO SAY, YOU CAN'T DO THOSE IMMIGRATION ARRESTS ANYMORE. YOU CAN'T TURN SOMEONE OVER TO ICE YOU FIND JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK THEY'RE UNDOCUMENTED.
TED: WHICH LEADS THEN AGAIN TO 2013, WHEN WE HAVE ALL OF THIS MONITORING SUPPOSED TO BE GOING ON AND PROCEDURAL CHANGES AND THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE RESPONSE TO ALL OF THIS WAS?
TERRY GREENE: WELL, THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, WE DON'T FIND OUT UNTIL LATER THAT THIS IS GOING ON. BUT THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT HAS, IN FACT, BEEN ENFORCING IMMIGRATION. WHEN IT SHOULD NOT -- WHEN THERE WAS NO STATE CRIME INVOLVED AND THAT WENT COUNTER TO THE JUDGE'S VERY FIRM ORDERS, SO THAT'S A HUGE VIOLATION AND THE JUDGE RULED THAT, SO THEN WE GO TO 2013, ALL SORTS OF THINGS HAPPEN. IN 2012, THERE'S A TRIAL. IN 2013, ARPAIO, THE JUDGE RULES THAT ARPAIO HAD INDEED AND HIS DEPARTMENT, HAD INDEED RACIALLY PROFILED LATINO DRIVERS AND THEIR PASSENGERS AND MY GOSH! THAT'S A HUGE AMOUNT OF OUR POPULATION, RIGHT? THAT'S A HUGE AMOUNT OF OUR POPULATION. SO THEN THINGS GET A LITTLE BIT CONVOLUTED BECAUSE THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE BEGINS TO GET INVOLVED IN SOME INVESTIGATIONS THAT THE JUDGE DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT.
TED: REGARDING THE JUDGE?
TERRY GREENE: REGARDING THE JUDGE, WITH A KIND OF REALLY CONVOLUTED CONSPIRACY THEORY THAT INVOLVES THE PLAINTIFF'S LAWYERS, THE JUDGE, AND WHO IS THE THIRD PERSON?
JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. WHO MEANWHILE HAD BEGUN ITS OWN INVESTIGATION AND CASE AGAINST THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE.
TERRY GREENE: STRAIGHT OUT OF BREITBART NEWS.
TED: WE'VE MOVED FORWARD FROM WHERE THIS BEGAN. THROUGH IT ALL -- AND WE HAVEN'T GOT MUCH TIME LEFT. BUT WE WANT TO FIGURE OUT WHERE THIS ALL STARTED. BUT IT'S TRAFFIC STOPS AND IMMIGRATION RAIDS AND THE JUDGE SAYING KNOCK IT OFF AND THE ARPAIO PEOPLE STILL DOING IT AND ACCORDING TO THE JUDGE, NOT ONLY DOING THAT, BUT QUOTE/UNQUOTE, LYING DIRECTLY TO HIS FACE. HAS THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT EVER SHOWN REMORSE OR APOLOGIES -- I UNDERSTAND HE'S APOLOGIZED.
JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK: THERE WAS A DAY IN COURT DURING THE CONTEMPT HEARING WHERE THE SHERIFF SAID, WAS QUITE CONTRITE AND DID MAKE THAT CLEAR AND HIS LAWYER DID -- HAD A VERY CONTRITE MODE WHEN ASKING FOR NO CRIMINAL CONTEMPT CHARGES BUT HERE WE ARE.
TED: WE'VE GOT TO STOP HERE, MY GOODNESS! WE COULD DO THE WHOLE SHOW ON THIS THING. BUT AT LEAST WE GOT AN IDEA OF WHERE IT STARTED AND WHERE IT IS AND WHERE IT GOES. GOOD TO HAVE YOUBOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.
TED: THAT'S IT FOR NOW, I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING!

The Melendres Case is a class-action suit filed in 2007, claiming the Maricopa County Sheriff’s unlawfully racially profiled Hispanics in immigration sweeps and traffic stops. The judge in the case ordered the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stop racial profiling, but the judge has determined that those orders were ignored, leading him to call for criminal contempt of court charges to be filed. Terry Greene Sterling, a journalist and writer in residence at the Walter Cronikite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Arizona State University, and KJZZ journalist Jude Joffe-Block, have co-authored a book on the case and changing immigration policies, and will discuss the Melendres case.

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Also in this episode:

Arpaio Criminal Charges

In this segment:

Terry Greene Sterling: A journalist and writer in residence at the Walter Cronikite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Arizona State University, Jude Joffe-Block: KJZZ journalist

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