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At MomsRising we're always looking out to make sure that mothers and families are treated fairly in our nation. In 2009, we saw a video that shocked us: two young children crying, alone in a car, reaching out for their mother who'd been taken away by deputies wearing ski masks after being stopped for a minor traffic violation. The images were haunting.

A nightmare, right?

Never in America? Wrong.

A local NBC news report at the time described the incident through the eyes of a witness, "…the deputies were wearing ski masks and detained the children's mother for about an hour while her children watched, crying."

Who's in charge of these deputies?!

It turns out that the person in charge knew exactly what was going on. Sheriff Arpaio has been cited repeatedly for gross civil rights violations and racial profiling of both citizens and non-citizens in the name of immigration enforcement. When questioned about his tactics, he said that under his jurisdiction, "it was not unusual for law enforcement officers to wear ski masks while on duty."

In the video the young girl is asked, "What did the sheriff tell you?" The little girl said, "To be quiet, but I couldn't 'cause I wanted to go with my mommy." And here's what Mary, a MomsRising team member said after seeing the video: "We may not all be on the same page about immigration policy, but we do all agree that children and mothers shouldn't be treated this way."

Regardless of where immigration policy stands, no one should be treated that way.

That's why in 2009, we asked MomsRising members to take action and urge the Department of Justice to investigate Sheriff Arpaio's tactics. Over 8,000 letters were sent in from MomsRising members, thousands more came from other organizations, and your voices were heard.

You made a difference!

The Department of Justice did investigate as MomsRising members and others urged them to and just released findings that Sheriff Arpaio is engaging in a “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing” that included systematic racial profiling of Latinos; unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos; and unlawful retaliation against anyone who criticized the sheriff’s policies.

Said DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez: “(The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s or MCSO’s) systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections has created a wall of distrust between the sheriff’s office and large segments of the community, which dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people. The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture, and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”

Erika Jahneke, a MomsRising member in Phoenix, Arizona, who signed the MomsRising petition against Arpaio two years ago, said she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I think it's a long time coming,” she said. “He thinks he's above consequences.”

Veronica Arreola, an educator in Chicago, Illinois who also signed the petition said, “I was so happy to finally see the DOJ act on Arpaio's inhumane acts. He claims that law overrides compassion, but I believe there is room for both. Only a zealot would see in such stark terms.”

Due to the recent DOJ decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has restricted Arpaio’s access to immigration databases. The DOJ has said it would file a civil suit against Arpaio if he does not comply with its ruling.

This is a victory for fairness, freedom, and rights in our nation. All mothers, children, and people in our country need to be treated with fairness and respect.

Thank you to all the MomsRising members who played a role in this victory by standing up against inhumane treatment of families.


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