US & Canada

Arizona sheriff office pays out over migrant raid

Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in a 2010 file photo
Sheriff Arpaio is hailed as a hero by Americans who seek a crackdown on illegal immigration

An Arizona sheriff office's will pay $200,000 to two Hispanic men unlawfully detained during an anti-illegal migrant raid on a landscaping firm in 2009.

Julian and Julio Mora, one a legal resident and the other a US citizen, were held for three hours by Maricopa County deputies.

In April, a judge agreed the deputies violated their constitutional rights.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is known for his his harsh crackdowns on illegal immigrants.

In February 2009, a team of dozens of deputies and volunteers with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office raided Handyman Maintenance Inc, a landscaping company based in Phoenix, Arizona.

They had a warrant to search the company premises for evidence of document fraud, and ultimately arrested 60 illegal aliens, the sheriff's office said at the time.

The two Moras men - Julian is Julio's father - were on their way to work when they were stopped in their truck outside the company grounds, handcuffed with plastic zip-ties, and held for three hours with other employees.

They were released when deputies established that they were in the US legally and had committed no other offences.

'Don't ignore the constitution'

In August 2009 the men sued the sheriff's office, arguing that officials had violated their right under the US constitution to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. In April, Federal Judge David Campbell agreed, ruling the deputies had no lawful reason to detain them.

On Thursday the Moras and the sheriff's office agreed settled the case.

"Sheriff Arpaio's deputies are not free to ignore the constitution when they are enforcing immigration laws," their lawyer Annie Lai, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

"County officials should take heed that the Moras and hundreds of other Latino residents who have been detained in the raids without any evidence of wrongdoing have recourse in the courts."

A lawyer for the sheriff's office said the large number of deputies working on the raid precluded them from identifying which had been involved in the Moras' detention, so it could not defend against the suit.

"If you can't have the officers, it's an uphill climb," Tim Casey told the Arizona Republic newspaper.

"The sheriff's office has made some good, positive changes, so when they have 100 deputies doing operations, they're going to record things better so this doesn't happen again."

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