SB 1070 and Sheriff Arpaio’s Acquittal

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Alessandra Soler, Executive Director for the ACLU of Arizona and Daniel Ortega, Chairman for the National Council of La Raza, discuss the ruling on the portion of SB 1070 that requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of those stopped or arrested under certain circumstances and also talk about the federal officials announcement that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office will not face state criminal charges in their investigation.

José Cárdenas: Last week, U.S. District judge Susan Bolton denied a request to impose a new injunction on a portion of S.B. 1070 that requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of those stopped or arrested under certain circumstances. The requirement has been at the center of a two-year legal battle that ended in a U.S. Supreme court decision in June upholding the requirement. In the same week, federal officials announced Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio's office will not face state criminal charges in their investigation. Joining me to talk about these two topics is Alessandra Soler, executive director for the ACLU of Arizona. Also here is Daniel Ortega, chairman for the national council of La Raza. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." You've been here before. Pretty much the same topics, only we seem to be reaching the end of the preliminary skirmishes of S.B. 1070. Tell us what happened last week.

Alessandra Soler: Sure. Well, Judge Bolton basically said that she agrees with the supreme court's decision that it was premature to block this provision of S.B. 1070.

José Cárdenas: She didn't have any choice, though, did she? She can't disagree with the supreme court.

Alessandra Soler: Yeah, and I mean I think that's what. She did kind of have her hands tied. We obviously disagreed with her decision. We thought we did present new evidence showing that there is the possibility of detentions, but she said you've got to come back to me and bring me more evidence, more evidence we can use.

José Cárdenas: What you presented she decided was not enough at this stage.

Alessandra Soler: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: And what was the evidence that you presented?

Alessandra Soler: Sure. We presented a couple of things. We presented examples, case examples of individuals who have been wrongfully detained. An example of a 19-year-old student who was stopped and cited for screeching his tires, and then a police officer ended up showing up at his house, same police officer, called him up and said can I come to your house? And at his house, he said have you heard about S.B. 1070? And the student said well yeah, and he said if I don't take you over to ICE, I may lose my job. That was one very concrete example of how these abuses are happening even before the law goes into effect. We provided an example of the discriminatory intent, that race was a really motivating factor in the passage of SB 1070.

José Cárdenas: And, and did the judge address either of these two points?

Alessandra Soler: She, umm… not sufficiently. Yeah we think that she didn't really consider the evidence as much as we would have liked her to and I think that was what was part of the problem, we think she ignored it and just kind of piggy-backed on what the supreme court said on June 25th.

José Cárdenas: So where do things stand? At some point the law is going to go into effect.

Alessandra Soler: Exactly and barring any sort of last-minute legal maneuvering, but we are, you know, making preparations, making sure that we inform the community, the parties in the separate case, the federal government's case are going to be submitting language on how she can lift the injunction and that's going to happen sometime around the 17th, which is next week.

José Cárdenas: So Denny, what are people concerned about at this point in time? It does seem as though the state, in the process of making their case in the supreme court, and the advise that has been given to police officers, stepping back and doing everything they can, at least in terms of council for police departments, to make sure that there is no racial profiling. What are you worried about?

Daniel Ortega: Well, we're clearly worried about the extensiveness and the depth of the training that's going to be involved here. I think the key here is the extent to which people are going to be detained if they're stopped for running a red light and then there's a reasonable suspicion. It's our interpretation that it shouldn't take any longer than what it would take for running a red light than if you're going to include the stop for suspicion that you may be here without documents and there's really where the battleground is at in terms of what does this mean? Can it be prolonged beyond what it would originally take? Our position is that it can't be. That anything beyond what it would take to issue you a citation should be it. And, of course, those are the things that the judge talked about, that we actually needed cases like that, once it's implemented.

José Cárdenas: Even if the police act pretty quickly, if they have a reasonable suspicion, then they're going to make the call to ICE, right? And that's going to consume some time?

Daniel Ortega: Yeah, but you've got the reality of what's going to happen. That is that ICE may not respond. And even if they do determine that they may not be here without papers, ICE can say there's nothing we're going to do because of the priorities that have been outlined most recently by the Obama administration. So we've got a whole bunch of problems: Training, the extent to which you can be detained and if you are detained, what happens to you in the long run if ICE isn't going to act upon any information that it has about your legal status?

José Cárdenas: What kind of monitoring is going to be done to ensure or document any instances where they do keep people longer there?

Daniel Ortega: The ACLU has a phone bank that is going on as we speak where people who are stopped by the police and believe they have been racially profiles on the basis of race, and the color of their skin, on the basis of accent or any of these other things to report it, and we do urge people, all people, we believe that the racial profiling is going to happen to Latinos, irrespective of status, and it's going to happen to some other people for a variety of reasons. And we want them to call in. Umm…do you have the number, Alessandra?

Alessandra Soler: 1-8555-RESPETO.

José Cárdenas: Now Alessandra, there was another part of the ruling she enjoined a part of the statute that had not been enjoined previously.

Alessandra Soler: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: Tell us quickly about that.

Alessandra Soler: Sure. That was the first time ever that she had enjoined the transporting and harboring provision, which would have made it a crime for individuals to transport somebody who was undocumented. It was a significant step. The reality is that that provision had not been enforced over the past couple of years but it was the first time that she enjoined and based on prior decisions that came out of other cases dealing with the similar subject matter.

José Cárdenas: Dan, let's talk about the other big news, the federal government's decision not to proceed with the criminal prosecution of Sheriff Arpaio.

José Cárdenas: Well, it was shocking for me to hear the news and to hear it on the Friday before the labor day weekend. But it was even more shocking to read the letter that they sent the County Attorney Bill Montgomery, to learn for the first time that the only thing that they were investigating as it relates to sheriff Joe Arpaio were issues surrounding the misuse of funds, in particular the MCSO misuse of county credit cards and the MCSO's misspending of the jail facilities excise tax money. That's all they were looking into. And--

José Cárdenas: And that came as a surprise?

Daniel Ortega: We were all under the impression that there was an abuse of power, a federal criminal probe as it related to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and from this letter, there was no probe. The only person who was being investigated from a criminal standpoint on that was Andrew Thomas, the former county attorney Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon as it related to their lawsuit against Judge Gary Donaho. On both counts, both as it relates to the sheriffs' and to Andrew Thomas, there was no criminal wrongdoing that they felt that was taken to trial.

José Cárdenas: Is there anything that can be done at this stage? Supervisor Wilcox expressed her disappointment. And I don't know but I thought there was some suggestion of an appeal to the department of justice and leadership to review that decision.

Daniel Ortega: My humble opinion is there is absolutely nothing anybody can do if you read this letter to convince what I believe to be a very competent, well trained very smart individual from the department of justice. Look, we're looking at it from a political standpoint. That's a whole different viewpoint from the standards necessary to prosecute a crime and beyond a reasonable doubt is a very tough standard. And I think these lawyers, not as people involved in politics, looked at it very seriously and said look, there's no probability of success here.

José Cárdenas: But you think they looked at the wrong thing or they didn't look at something they should?

Daniel Ortega: Well, I'm surprised that they didn't look at the issue of the abuse of power by Sheriff Joe Arpaio the way they did with Andrew Thomas. But if they didn't find it with Andrew Thomas, he's one removed from that. It would have been very difficult to prosecute Arpaio and give a guilty verdict.

José Cárdenas: Alessandra, we're almost out of time. Give us a quick summary or thought as to how this will impact the civil lawsuit that you're involved in and that is pending before the judge now?

Alessandra Soler: It certainly means that our civil lawsuit is hanging on a much greater significance. We've been building and collecting evidence over allegation of racial profiling for the past five years. There was a trial in late July, beginning of August, very public airing of both evidence, statistical evidence showing that he was, in fact, pulling over Latinos at much higher rates and that they were engaging in discriminatory placing. We're waiting for a decision from the judge and we're hoping that it's going to result in some substantive changes to the way that they do their policing.

José Cárdenas: On that note, we're going to have to end our interview, thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte."

Alessandra Soler:Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona; Daniel Ortega:Chairman, National Council of La Raza;

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