PHOENIX (AP) - An activist arrested during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump earlier this year has filed a lawsuit accusing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of unlawfully holding her overnight for a federal immigration check even though she is a U.S. citizen.
Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman filed the suit in federal court in Phoenix on Wednesday. She said that even though Arpaio has only a few days left in office, the lawsuit is also a way to put pressure on incoming Sheriff Paul Penzone to end an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows the sheriff’s office to place holds on inmates while ICE checks for immigration violations.
“What we know is that thousands of people are held every day on detainers even though their constitutional rights are being violated,” Gonzalez Goodman said. “Even though today we are suing Joe Arpaio, we know that this lawsuit will continue under Penzone and he will have to answer as to whether or not he will continue this unconstitutional practice that’s costing the city of Phoenix thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a written statement that ICE screens everyone at Maricopa County jails and that doing so enables the agency to identify immigrants who may need to be further reviewed.
She said ICE collaborates with law enforcement agencies around Phoenix and nationally on what is called the Priority Enforcement Program, which she said ensures that people who pose a threat to public safety aren’t released without an immigration check first.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes its resources to target serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a risk to national security or public safety,” the statement says.
Activists said at a news conference on Thursday that they hope Penzone, a Democrat who handily defeated Arpaio last month, will end the partnership with ICE.
“So long as these polices, specifically ICE collaboration, are within MCSO power, Sheriff Arpaio will be in control,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente Arizona, an advocacy group for immigrants.
Gonzalez Goodman and two others were arrested on March 19 after they blocked off a road in protest of a Trump rally in Fountain Hills. She was held overnight on an ICE hold while others arrested during the protest were let go.
Gonzalez Goodman, who was born in Mexico but has American citizenship, said she was the only one of her group to be interviewed by ICE and who ended up with a detainer holding her overnight.
Arpaio, 84, became a national figure by cracking down on illegal immigration and jailing inmates in tents. But activists have long said his immigration patrols revolved around racial profiling, and legal challenges have followed.
Arpaio is now facing a trial on a misdemeanor contempt charge for continuing his immigration patrols months after a judge in a racial profiling case ordered them stopped. Arpaio has pleaded not guilty and has acknowledged the violation but says it wasn’t intentional.
Growing discontent with the sheriff and his costly legal woes resulted in his ousting in November by a wide margin.
Penzone, a retired Phoenix police sergeant, hasn’t said what changes he’ll make once in office.
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