PHOENIX, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- A lawyer for Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied during a court hearing his office engages in ethnic profiling in enforcing human smuggling laws.
The hearing in U.S. District Court came as part of lawsuit accusing the sheriff's department of racial profiling. Tim Casey, representing the Sheriff's Office, said the office no longer enforces federal immigration law, citing federal government policy removing such authority, but he said the office enforces Arizona laws on human smuggling, The Arizona Republic reported.
Casey told U.S. Judge Murray Snow the question of which law is being enforced is irrelevant in any case, since Arpaio's office does not intentionally single out Latinos for enforcement, the newspaper reported.
"Enforcement of federal and state law is not profiling," Casey said.
Casey said as long as the Sheriff's Office has reasonable suspicion that at least one element of the smuggling law is being violated, it is permitted to investigate a matter further. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege the office focuses only on race, while claiming investigations are carried out based on a suspicion that someone is in the United State illegally.
Attorney Stanley Young, representing the plaintiffs, said in court the Sheriff's Office policy was intended to allow sheriff's deputies to single out Latino residents.
"If the sheriff is taking the position that simply having one element is sufficient, and the one element they're picking is correlated to race, that is actually racial profiling," Young said.