In Court Documents, Arpaio’s Defense Says Civil Rights Not Protected If Someone Is Speaking Spanish

Jun 12, 2012
9:11 AM

What planet do the lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio live on? In a 23-page response to a federal lawsuit that alleges the racial profiling and discrimination of US Latino citizens, Arpaio's lawyers offer the following argument as one of the reasons why the lawsuit should be dismissed:


Section 601 of Title VI prohibits intentional discrimination "on the ground of race, color, or national origin." But the Forth Claim for Relief, and part of the Fifth Claim for Relief, do not rely on those prohibited grounds of discrimination. Instead, the claims rely on allegations that Defendants violated Title VI by not providing adequate Spanish language-assistance to "limited English proficient (LEP) Latino prisoners." Plaintiff confuses the "national origin" with language proficiency, and consequently, the claim must be dismissed…

Whereas "national origin" refers to a person's birthplace or ancestry, language proficiency refers to the ability to understand and covey a specific set of words and phrases.

The argument continues with cases regarding students from an alternative school for immigrant students that were claiming that their educational opportunities were being denied because they were getting labeled as limited English proficient students and were put in special classes for their limited English skills. The suit claimed that there were intentionally being discriminated against. The court ruled against it, but the high school students' argument was about opportunities being denied and not about allegations of racial profiling. It also adds another case as an example as to why Spanish language course are not being offered to LEP inmates in Washington, DC. For Arpaio's lawyers to equate their client's case with these two cases one makes no sense. MCSO is not in the business of education, it is in the business of law enforcement, and as such, whether they like it or not, people still have rights even when they are detained.

And then this:

Although Plaintiff goes to great length to categorize the prisoners as "Latino limited English proficient" prisoners, its allegations clearly and unequivocally focus on providing language assistance to Spanish-speaking prisoners, not simply to those Spanish-speaking prisoners who happen to be Latinos….

The section of the argument concludes by saying that language proficiency is not a category that is protected by civil rights or discrimination laws. Hence, we ask: what planet do Arpaio's lawyers live on? Speaking Spanish does not fall under discrimination laws? So, with that logic, someone's civil rights CAN be violated because Spanish and English language proficiency are not protected? This is the argument being brought out? Sad.

In the meantime, the Phoenix New Times said it best when it wrote:

Meanwhile, the other hundred-plus allegations against Arpaio and MCSO don't have to do with English proficiency, and neither do the five other sections for response put together by Arpaio's team of lawyers.

Still, it somewhat answers the question of how can you possibility defend yourself against this?

Here is the full document filed by the lawyers (and yes, there is a Rodney King reference! Really?):