Otero County NM sheriff ordered to halt illegal raids and traffic stops

EL PASO — A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction banning Otero County NM sheriff’s deputies from making unlawful stops, intimidation and other unlawful actions targeting undocumented immigrants in Chaparral NM.

The decision was issued Friday by Chief U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez of the New Mexico district.
The ruling was a victory for the Border Network for Human Rights represented by the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, which filed a lawsuit in October alleging civil rights violations committed by deputies in the semi-rural community north of El Paso. The injunction was requested in March.

“This is an important victory so the community won’t have fear,” said Martina Morales, a Southern New Mexico member of the Border Network for Human Rights. “I think it gives (residents) a lot of confidence to keep reporting abuses and what is happening in the community.”

In the lawsuit, Chaparral NM residents claim that deputies unlawfully harassed and interrogated residents and searched homes trying to find undocumented immigrants as part of Operation Stonegarden, a federally funded program.

Otero County Undersheriff Norbert Sanchez said deputies acted properly and within the law.

“That injunction order is of no consequence to us at all because we are not conducting any illegal searches or seizures or discrimination,” Sanchez said.

The injunction orders the Otero Sheriff’s Department to:

  • Stop engaging in stops, searches or seizures without valid legal justification related to Operation Stonegarden
  • Stop “unlawful community-wide raids targeting low-income Latino residents in Otero County” for the sole purpose of apprehending undocumented immigrants.
  • Stop unlawful discriminatory activities and racial profiling to find undocumented immigrants.
  • Stop unlawful retaliation, coercion and harassment to find undocumented immigrants.

“Local police, in this case the local sheriff in Chaparral, can continue doing their job of protecting the community, protecting the border without violating the constitutional rights of families … especially immigrant families,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

In April, Otero County settled a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund representing five Chaparral families who claimed their rights were violated.

 

Finally, common sense decisions coming down from our Federal Judiciary!

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