After the scandalous Maricopa County, Arizona case enabled by the country’s notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has released details on another case of police discrimination against Latinos. In East Haven, Connecticut, the police department is believed to have “engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against Latinos in violation of the Constitution and federal law.” In a letter from the DOJ to the police department, they indicate that the investigation they began in September 2009 focused on allegations that the officers engage in biased policing, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and the use of excessive force. The DOJ has concluded that they “have reasonable cause to believe that [police] officers intentionally target Latinos for disparate traffic enforcement and treatment because of their race, color, or national origin based on statistical analysis of traffic stop, incidents of abuse of authority, failure to remedy a history of discrimination, and significant deviations from standard police practices.”
As we had already informed, the Department of Homeland Security had announced it immediately terminated its immigration enforcement agreements with the office in Arizona after the DOJ found the county’s Sheriff, an advocate for controversial immigration enforcement and detention measures, has committed a “wide range of civil rights violations.” Now there is a movement going on countrywide to stop these unfair and illegal practices. Here in South Florida, Homestead residents and immigrant advocates delivered a petition with 2,000 signatures to Miami-Dade County Police Department headquarters last week, “calling on the department to stop its practice of stopping Latino drivers based on their racial profile.” A spokesman for the Miami – Dade County Police Department said that the department strives to maintain “core values of integrity, respect, service and fairness,” and that amid these allegations the department would investigate the issue. Immigrant advocates from South Florida have denounced the fact that under the current immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, an arrest when no crime is involved can quickly turn into a deportation process, leaving U.S.-born children without a parent. “We’ve tried to show racial profiling in an objective way,” said the executive director of We Count! “but in Miami Dade County, basically you’re white or black, there’s no way of coding Latinos to show the disparity in the stops-that’s been one of the problems.” As the New Year quickly approaches, it is our greatest hope that these aberrations in civil rights justice will be corrected and never repeated again. This is definitely a worthy cause to fight for throughout the upcoming year.