Court upholds racial profiling injunction on Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A federal court on Wednesday largely upheld an injunction blocking Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio and his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from the unconstitutional practice of detaining anyone solely on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant.

Arpaio, who bills himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," has been accused in a class action lawsuit of racially profiling Latino drivers and passengers, and stopping them under the auspices of enforcing immigration laws.

The complaint was filed on behalf of plaintiffs that included civil rights activists and a community group called Somos America. It alleges Arpaio's sheriff's department conducted racially discriminatory traffic stops while also launching "crime suppression sweeps," known as "saturation patrols," targeting Hispanics.

In Wednesday's order, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court's injunction preventing traffic stops to verify drivers' immigration status was not over-broad and was aimed at remedying specific constitutional violations.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled in 2013 that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office systematically singled out Latinos in regular traffic and special immigration patrols.

That was when Arpaio and his deputies were permanently enjoined for the first time from "detaining, holding or arresting Latino occupants of vehicles in Maricopa County based on a reasonable belief, without more, that such persons are in the country without authorization.”

A hearing is scheduled for later this month in Phoenix over allegations Arpaio and his top aides acted in contempt during the case.

(Reporting By Tom Brown. Editing by Andre Grenon)