Pinal sheriff ordered to pay settlement over SB 1070 arrest
A federal judge has ordered the Pinal County Sheriff's Office to pay $25,001 for improperly using the state's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, to detain an Eloy woman and then transport her to Border Patrol custody.
U.S. District Court Jduge John J. Tuchi made the decision Wednesday, resolving a September lawsuit by the Arizona chapter of American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the constitutionality of SB 1070's requirement that law enforcement officers should determine whether someone is in the country illegally if they have reason to suspect it.
At the heart of the case was Maria Cortes, who was held by immigration authorities for five days, following a minor traffic stop by Pinal County deputies in September 2012.
While Cortes had a pending application for a U-visa, issued to immigrants who have been the victims of domestic abuse, she was "cited and released" and then transported to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office by deputies.
Cortes said she told deputies about the visa, but deputies refused to look at the application.
Two deputies, Kristina Stoltz and Chad Lakosky, were named in the suit, along with Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who was named in his official capacity.
The lawsuit argued that the deputies had violated her Fourth Amendment rights by holding her beyond the scope of the original purposes of the stop, which was to cite her for a cracked windshield.
Babeu defended his deputies in a September statement.
"Our deputies complied with the SB1070 law and the later rulings by the United States Supreme Court," Babeu said.
“SB 1070 encourages officers to presume people are undocumented simply because of the color of their skin or the way they speak,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We filed suit on behalf of Ms. Cortes to highlight the harm that stems from having a ‘show me your papers’ law on the books. We’re pleased to announce a resolution that provides Ms. Cortes a measure of justice and we hope that individuals who experience racial profiling will continue to report that abuse.”
Courts have blocked key provisions of the 2010 law, but the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court upheld the "show me your papers" provision, arguing that the law did not automatically violate constitutional rights, but suggested that the matter could be reconsidered.
In May, the ACLU forced the South Tucson Police Department to agree to overhaul department policies over the enforcement of SB 1070 after filing a lawsuit against the department for similar practices.
Meanwhile, Tucson Police Department has backed away from enforcing part of SB 1070. During a Tucson City Council meeting, Chief Roberto Villaseñor said his officers will only check immigration status and call Border Patrol when they find a person has prior serious felony convictions, poses a threat to national security or has gang affiliations.
Villaseñor said that calling Border Patrol had become a "futile effort." Since July, immigration officials have only replied to 94 of more than 11,000 calls placed by Tucson police officers.