An attorney representing a Mexican visitor is asking a federal judge to block the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from what he claims is racial profiling by agency deputies trying to enforce federal immigration laws.
Louis Moffa Jr. said in papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix that Manuel Ortega Melendres was illegally detained after the vehicle in which he was riding was stopped by deputies.
But Moffa wants more than damages for Ortega.
He is asking Judge Mary Murguia to force Sheriff Joe Arpaio to shut down his special hot line that people can call to report suspected illegal immigrants. And Moffa wants a court order shutting down the sheriff’s Illegal Immigration and Interdiction Unit, which acts on those tips.
Sheriff’s office spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla said the lawsuit is an attempt to stop deputies from enforcing federal laws. Moffa acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has signed an agreement with Arpaio allowing specially trained deputies to enforce immigration laws.
He said, though, that pact permits deputies to detain suspected violators of federal laws only if they are investigating some breach of state or local laws. Instead, Moffa charged that Arpaio has deployed deputies specifically for the purpose of looking for illegal immigrants, and many Hispanics have been questioned and some arrested even though there was no reason to believe they had broken any state laws.
Chagolla denied deputies are acting illegally.