A brother and sister — Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto, Jr. — stumbled into one of Arpaio's sweeps in their neighborhood in 2008. When they suddenly pulled away in their car, one motorcycle officer and three sheriff's deputies' cars chased them to their family's nearby auto shop. Nieto called 911 for help before his father told the deputies his children were U.S. citizens. Then they were released, according to a lawsuit.
Meraz, Nieto and Ortega are all part of a massive federal civil rights lawsuit, slowly moving through the legal system, accusing Arpaio of systemic racial profiling. In a deposition in the case last year Arpaio flatly stated: "We don't stop people by their appearance," he said. "We follow the law."
In the course of defending the lawsuit, Arpaio's office has addressed allegations raised by some of the incidents. It argued in court papers that Ortega's legality was most easily sorted out by the federal government and that Meraz and Nieto were "fleeing" authorities, so the response was appropriate.
David Bodney, the lead counsel in the case, is skeptical. "The indicia of illegality is often no more than skin color, Spanish language and dirty clothing," he said.
Bodney and others fear that those characteristics will invite even more scrutiny once Arizona's new law goes into effect in 90 days.
Magos is concerned he could be stopped again once the new law goes into effect.
He said that when he was stopped in December, the deputy frisked him and yelled at him several times. Magos, a soft-spoken man, is still shaken. "What I'm afraid of is being stopped again," he said. "I already have that anger towards them. I know I can contain it. But there should be no reason for anyone to suppress their feelings because the police feel they can roll over one part of the population."