Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Judge Limits Otero County Sheriff's Department Immigrant Raids (KOAT-Albequerque, NM)

Judge Limits Otero County Sheriff's Department Immigrant Raids
POSTED: 11:40 pm MDT September 23, 2008

The Otero County Sheriff's Department has been under fire for months after raids in search of illegal immigrants.

A federal judge has now stepped in with an order that could effect how the deputies do their job.

The department has taken some heat in recent months after raiding a rural community just north of El Paso, Texas.

Norbert Sanchez, the Otero County Undersheriff, said, "We're following within the bounds of the law."

Sanchez said under Operation Stone-Garden, the county received federal money to help secure and stop crime around the border.

In 2007, deputies conducted a raid in Chaparral looking for illegal immigrants -- a raid that a civil rights group out of El Paso said was unconstitutional.

Betty Camargo, with the Border Network for Human Rights, said, "A few times they went with the people that would deliver pizza. The pizza delivery people or they would show up with the animal control people and they would use that excuse to ask for identification or immigration status."

The group first filed a lawsuit last year against the sheriff's office.

In March, the group followed up requesting an injunction or order banning deputies from illegal searches.

On Friday, a federal judge issued the order which won't allow deputies to engage in stops, searches or seizures without good reason relating to Stone-Garden.

It will also put a stop to targeting residents because of race to find undocumented workers.

Sanchez said, "I feel a lot of the heat we're taking is unjust. These are just allegations that were made against us."

Sheriff's deputies said they would continue the operation leaving residents on edge because some have seen the searches first hand.

Nohemi Gonzalez, who lives in the area, said, "My mom's neighbor, they just went and they just got her out of her house. They just knocked on the door and took her and all her kids."

Leaders with the Border Network said this is just the first step in helping defend the rights of residents in Chaparral.

Deputies said since that operation Stone-Garden began about two years ago, crime in the Chaparral area has decreased significantly.

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