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US court rules against Arizona sheriff over Latinos

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is shown August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Rights activists welcomed a US court's ruling against Arpaio, who calls himself America's toughest lawmen, which said he improperly targeted Hispanics for routine traffic stops.

Rights activists welcomed a US court's ruling against an Arizona's sheriff who calls himself America's toughest lawmen, which said he improperly targeted Hispanics for routine traffic stops.

A federal judge said the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) must stop "using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in determining to stop any vehicle in Maricopa County with a Latino occupant," among other orders.

A group of Hispanic drivers sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a case that went to trial last year, accusing his officers of using race to determine which motorists to stop.

In his ruling, Judge Murray Snow said "the evidence demonstrates that the MCSO specifically equated being a Hispanic or Mexican (as opposed to Caucasian or African-American) day laborer with being an unauthorized alien."

The judge ordered the MCSO to stop activities, including "using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in making law enforcement decisions" and "detaining Latino occupants of vehicles... for a period longer than reasonably necessary."

The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the ruling.

"This is a victory for everyone," said Cecillia Wang of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Singling people out for traffic stops and detentions because they are Latino is unconstitutional and just plain un-American.

"Let this be a warning to any agency trying to enforce the 'show me your papers' provision of SB 1070 and similar laws -- there is no exception in the Constitution for immigration enforcement."

Arizona's controversial SB 1070 law was passed in 2010. In June, the US Supreme Court struck most of it down, but let stand a key provision requiring police spot-checks that critics say amount to racial profiling.

There was no immediate reaction from Arpaio's office to the ruling.

About a third of Arizona's 6.6 million residents were not born in the United States. There are an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in the southwestern state, which borders Mexico.

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