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Arizona ACLU Brings Class-Action Lawsuit to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Office

Donna Gratehouse, who blogs at Democratic Diva and elsewhere on all things Arizona, sends us this.

Opening arguments were heard on Thursday morning in a class-action lawsuit brought by the Arizona American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) charging that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has been engaging in a shocking pattern of profiling and harassment of Hispanic residents. The suit could put S.B. 1070 on the skids, as the ACLU has produced several e-mails from then-Sen. Russell Pearce (often cited as the main architect of S.B. 1070) expressing paranoid racist vitriol. The plaintiffs say the e-mails demonstrate that the infamous "show your papers" law was indeed racially motivated, as opponents of the law have charged from the beginning.

Highlights of the 3,000 pages of emails entered into the court record include Pearce claiming that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was planted by the Mexican government to "infuse their men into American government and strengthen their control over their strongholds," that Mexicans "spawn corruption wherever they go because it's their only known way of life" and comparing Hispanics to cancer cells. 

The ACLU also plans to present evidence derived from Maricopa County Sheriff's Office correspondence showing that deputies were often acting on tips from residents who were simply irritated that people were speaking Spanish around them, which is not even close to establishing "probable cause" that people are in the country illegally. 

So what has Sheriff Arpaio done all week to distract from the deep doo doo he may be in? You guessed it! Yet another breathless announcement of more "evidence" that President Barack Obama's birth certificate is a forgery. On Tuesday, Arpaio and intrepid "cold case posse investigator" Mike Zullo held a press conference where they pushed their embarrassing and discredited conspiracy theory. Reporters questioned Zullo and Arpaio about the profit motive behind the investigation, and one reporter asked the sheriff if he would have his deputies detain the president and demand proof of citizenship the next time he visited the Phoenix area. 

Paul Penzone, the Democratic candidate for sheriff, responded immediately to Arpaio's birther antics with a scathing ad (embedded in this post) calling them a "gimmick" that "shows why he's no longer entitled to be our sheriff." Well said, Paul. 

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