Racial profiling suit vs. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to begin
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Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres wasn’t the first person to accuse the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of racial profiling, but the legal resident’s lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office was among the first legal challenges to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement tactics.
The 4-year-old case today will go before a U.S. District Court judge, who could determine whether the case will move forward.
Since Ortega Melendres filed his lawsuit in December 2007, four other plaintiffs have joined the case with claims that are now familiar to Maricopa County residents who have followed Arpaio’s attempts at local immigration enforcement. They claim deputies stopped or unreasonably detained them because of their race.
All the plaintiffs are either U.S. citizens or legal residents.
Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto Jr., both born in Chicago, were working at their family’s auto-repair business in Phoenix when deputies were conducting a sweep in the area in March 2008. Meraz was singing along to Spanish music in their car when a deputy threatened the two with disorderly conduct charges if they refused to leave a gas station where men were handcuffed nearby as part of the sweep. Nieto left the gas station and returned to the family business, where sheriff’s deputies arrived with guns drawn and pulled Nieto from the car. Nieto handed over his driver’s license and was not cited.
Velia Meraz, 35, and Manuel Nieto Jr., 33, joined a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Photo: Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic