California county is profiling Asian drivers — and cutting off water from Asian homeowners: lawsuit

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a new lawsuit alleges police and local officials in Siskiyou County, California — a rural, conservative area in the far north of the state on the border with Oregon — are systematically terrorizing Asian residents with traffic stops, property liens, and restrictions on water, with the intent to drive them out of the area.

"Officers in rural Siskiyou County, fueled by racial prejudice and drug fear-mongering, are stopping the county’s small population of Asian-American drivers at 12 times the rate of white drivers, according to a new lawsuit in federal court," reported Bob Egelko and Dustin Gardiner. "County supervisors are also restricting Asian-American residents’ access to water and illegally placing liens on their property, in a policy 'designed to drive a disfavored racial minority from the county,' the suit said. It was filed Wednesday in Sacramento by the American Civil Liberties Union and Asian Americans Advancing Justice as a proposed class action on behalf of the county’s 1,200 Asian-American residents."

According to one plaintiff, he was stopped by an armed deputy in 2020 who without any apparent reason "searched the vehicle, found a small fruit knife, took it away and let him go" — and then the next spring, a second deputy "stopped him on the way back from the laundromat and told him to get out with his hands raised and dump the laundry on the ground. After the deputy searched and found nothing, the plaintiff said, he had to go back to the laundromat and wash his clothes again."

Drivers weren't the only ones targeted. Asian homeowners report that Siskiyou County officials placed illegal liens on their property and disproportionately enforced water restrictions against them.

"After county supervisors voted in 2020 to prohibit property owners from extracting groundwater that was later used to cultivate cannabis, the suit said, 68% of those prosecuted were Asian-Americans," said the report. "The suit said they were also targeted by ordinances in the spring of 2021 that required permits to transport water from an owner’s property or to carry water in large containers on trucks, forcing some residents out of their homes, until the measures were blocked by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller last September. The suit also cited a 2020 ordinance that increased maximum fines for cannabis cultivation from $500 to $5,000 per day and authorized the county to place a lien on the property, which could be used to foreclose a home loan, when the fine was unpaid. Such liens are not authorized by state law, the suit said."

This alleged racial profiling comes at the same time that hate crimes against Asian-Americans around the country spiked. In recent months alone, a Florida woman in New York City was indicted for pepper-spraying Asian women in the face, while another man was charged after allegedly stomping and punching an elderly Asian woman. Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bill designed to crack down on such incidents at the federal level.

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