About Me

My photo
Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, December 22, 2011

DOJ's Race Claims Are, Alas, Weak

The Arizona Republic (Opinion): The most sensational allegation the Department of Justice has leveled against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office is that Latinos are four to nine times more likely to be subject to traffic stops than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.

It is also the most important allegation. It appears to provide hard evidence in support of the general claim that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is guilty of systemic racial discrimination.

At this point, however, the presumption has to be that the allegation is also based on junk science, since the DOJ refuses to release the "statistical study" on which it is based.

The reason for that presumption, paradoxically, is the DOJ's findings letter itself. Another allegation is that the sheriff's office does not keep sufficient data on traffic stops to determine whether racial profiling is occurring.

How can the underlying data be insufficient to determine whether racial profiling is occurring, but sufficient to conclude that Arpaio's office racially profiles more than any other law-enforcement agency in the country?

The DOJ says the sheriff's office "frequently" arrests Latinos without cause. What constitutes "frequently"? The DOJ doesn't say.

How does the percentage of wrongful arrests of Latinos compare with that of non-Latinos? The DOJ doesn't say. How does the record of the sheriff's office compare with that of other Valley law-enforcement agencies with respect to wrongful arrests? The DOJ doesn't say.

Not all of the DOJ's findings letter is so thinly evidenced or contradictory.

The section on the treatment of Latinos in county jails does provide a facial case of the "pattern or practice" of racial discrimination prohibited by federal law.

As a general matter, however, the letter is uncomfortably weak regarding evidence to back up its sweeping charges of pervasive racial discrimination.

Arpaio, of course, contends that's because the issue isn't really racial discrimination. It's an attempt by the Obama administration to stop him from enforcing immigration laws.

I don't think that's the case. Regrettably, however, the Department of Homeland Security strongly bolstered Arpaio's argument when it rescinded the authorization for his office to access federal databases to check the immigration status of those booked in the county jails.

This is the one immigration-enforcement program of Arpaio's that incontestably is implemented in a racially neutral fashion. The immigration status of everyone booked is checked. The DOJ made no allegation that the sheriff's office was misusing this authority for discriminatory purposes.

Arpaio's practice of checking the immigration status of everyone booked is now inconvenient and potentially embarrassing to the Obama administration, given the administrative amnesty policy it announced earlier this year. Under that policy, only serious criminals are to be deported. Arpaio's office would be documenting the number of illegal immigrants accused of lesser violations the Obama administration would be ignoring.

After a widespread outcry, the DHS retreated a bit, saying that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would do the jail checks.

This, of course, makes no sense. ICE is highly unlikely to be as available to county prosecutors to make the case to deny bail to illegal immigrants as required by state law, or to be as forthcoming with the public about the number of illegal immigrants being booked into the jails.

I've made it clear that I think Arpaio is running a rogue agency. That his baseless accusation of a vast criminal conspiracy involving county supervisors, senior county management and judges was an assault on the rule of law. And that his immigration sweeps violate fundamental American values and necessarily discriminate against lawful Latinos.

In my book, Arpaio wears a very black hat, and it would be great if some good guys chased him out of town.

At this point, however, it's far from clear that the Obama administration is wearing the white hat in this story.

No comments: