July 30, 1999
The Associated Press
PHOENIX, AZ - About 40 Chandler residents filed a late-hour civil rights lawsuit against federal immigration authorities over a 1997 downtown roundup of illegal aliens.
The lawsuit, the third stemming from the five-day July sweep, seeks unspecified damages for discrimination, alleging police, aiding U.S. Border Patrol officers, stop-ped many native-born Hispanics and asked them to prove their citizenship.
``You just don't pull over people because they're brown, and that's what happened,'' said Kent Turley, an attorney representing the group filing the lawsuit.
The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, came a week before the statue of limitations expires. It names the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service as a defendant, along with the Border Patrol. Chandler is not a defendant.
Chief Patrol Agent Robert Hines said it would be premature for him to comment since he had not seen the suit. However, he said Border Patrol agents do have the authority to stop and question people they believe may be in the United States illegally.
The operation conducted jointly with the U.S. Border Patrol rounded up about 435 illegal immigrants. Dozens of others claimed authorities singled them out because of their skin color and went beyond police authority to stop them while questioning their citizenship status.
City officials settled a $35 million civil rights lawsuit Feb. 10 for $400,000 with the promise to never conduct a similar roundup. The city rejected settling Turley's $8.8 million lawsuit for the same amount, saying it would have to verify the plaintiffs' complaints individually.