Thursday, September 20, 2012

DOJ Report: North Carolina Sheriff Discriminates Against Latinos, Calls Them ‘Taco-Eaters’

A North Carolina Sheriff routinely discriminates against Latinos, whom he refers to as ‘taco-eaters,’ according to the recently released results of a two-year investigation by the Department of Justice. Terry S. Johnson, who runs the Alamance County sheriff’s department, is accused in the report of targeting Latino drivers for traffic stops (they are between four and ten times more likely to be stopped than non-Latinos in Alamance County), arresting them for crimes other drivers merely receive tickets for, and then intentionally covering up the evidence of discrimination when confronted with a DOJ inquiry. The report found that the source of this behavior was “deeply rooted…culture that begins with Sheriff Johnson and permeates the entire agency.” Some of the evidence for that claim from the full report:

The Sheriff’s statements frequently assume that Latinos in Alamance County are undocumented immigrants and are involved in criminal activity. For example, in one widely publicized statement, in the course of discussing undocumented immigrants, Sheriff Johnson suggested that anyone of Mexican national origin was inherently suspicious, saying: ‘Their values are a lot different — their morals — than what we have here. In Mexico, there’s nothing wrong with having sex with a 12-, 13- year old girl. … They do a lot of drinking down in Mexico.” The Sheriff also uses derogatory epithets — such as the phrase “taco eaters” — when referring to Latinos in speaking with his staff, and his command staff tolerates the use of derogatory racial and ethnic epithets by ACSO deputies and correctional officers. Further, the Sheriff and other ACSO command staff have explicitly directed deputies to target Latinos during enforcement actions.

The DOJ concludes that the facts uncovered in the investigation are enough to support constitutional cases against the Department on both 4th (unlawful search and seizure) and 14th (equal protection) Amendment grounds. Johnson is only the most recent sheriff to be accused of civil rights violations by federal attorneys — his infamous predecessor-in-alleged-crime, Joe Arpaio, is currently facing suits claiming his Maricopa County department “forced women to sleep in their own menstrual blood, assaulted pregnant women, ignored rape, and criminalized being a Latino.”

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