- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A federal court on Thursday awarded more than $25,000 to a Mexican woman who claimed her five-day detention at an immigration office in Arizona two years ago was an illegal arrest.

The judgment came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit three months ago on behalf of Maria del Rosario Cortes Camacho, alleging constitutional violations in how the Pinal County sheriff’s office enforced Arizona’s landmark immigration enforcement law.

The U.S. District Court in Phoenix awarded Cortes $25,001 “plus taxable costs including reasonable attorney’s fees.”

Defendants in the suit were Pinal County, Sheriff Paul Babeu and two sheriff’s deputies.

“This was a decision from the Arizona County Insurance Pool, which is shared among 12 counties,” Babeu said in a statement. “This was clearly a legal strategy to avoid the hundreds of thousands (of dollars) it would have cost to litigate and represented a better way to get rid of this frivolous lawsuit.”

Cortes, a domestic violence victim who applied for a visa allowing her to remain in the U.S. to assist authorities with the case, alleged the two deputies had unreasonably prolonged the length of a September 2012 traffic stop that was prompted by her cracked windshield. She also accused the deputies of making an illegal arrest by bringing her in handcuffs to a U.S. Border Patrol office about 13 miles away where she was detained for five days.

Cortes was pulled over in Eloy, about 65 miles southeast of Phoenix, as she was driving home and told one of the officers about her visa application, but he wasn’t interested in looking at it, according to the lawsuit.

She was cited for having a cracked windshield, driving without a license and failing to show proof of insurance.

The suit alleged the officers violated Cortes’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures by prolonging the length of her stop after the original purpose was completed. She alleged the stop also was prolonged based on her immigration status.

Babeu previously said Cortes acknowledged not being a U.S. citizen, was cited for traffic violations and, as part of enforcing state immigration law, was brought to a federal immigration office so authorities there could determine her status.

Cortes didn’t allege racial profiling in her lawsuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Arizona law’s most contentious section - a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. But the courts have either struck down or blocked enforcement of other sections of the law known as SB1070, such as a requirement that immigrants carry registration papers.

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