California’s Siskiyou County accused of discrimination against Asian Americans in new class action lawsuit
California's Siskiyou County and Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue are accused of racial harassment of the Asian-American community in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California.
The federal lawsuit alleges that the county and its sheriff "participated in a widespread campaign to harass and intimidate Hmong and other Asian Americans."
Asian American residents in Siskiyou County have been harassed by traffic stops, falsely accused of criminal activity and discriminated against in public gatherings by lawmakers, according to the class action lawsuit filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.
"In service of this campaign, the defendants in traffic disruptions created widespread racial profiling, restricted access to water making life difficult for Asian Americans, and placed unlawful liens to dispossess lands of Asian Americans," the lawsuit states. "This targeting is intended to expel a disadvantaged racial minority from the county and has its roots in anti-Asian racism in Siskiyou, which dates back to the 19th century."
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The ACLU's lawsuit, which is also supported by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice in San Francisco, is being led by four members of the Asian American community. It follows another lawsuit filed against county officials last year, alleging that new policies limiting water use and supplies targeted Hmong farmers who grow marijuana. Previously, a district judge had issued an injunction against the county in the pending case.
Fewer than 45,000 people live in Siskiyou County, with Asian American residents making up just 1.6 percent of the county. Many of the Asian American residents belong to the Hmong community who sought refuge in the states after fighting alongside the US government in the Vietnam War.
"When we settled here and bought real estate here, we felt like we walked into an uncomfortable zone or environment," Peter Thao of Siskiyou County told NBC Bay Area.
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County officials have since denied any racial bias against Asian Americans; However, a controversy surrounding the fatal shooting of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, a 35-year-old Hmong farmer, in June 2021 has escalated tensions. The four officers involved in the shooting were acquitted by the Siskiyou County District Attorney, who claimed that Hawj was high on methamphetamine and pointed a loaded handgun at the officers before ramming his truck into them. The decision to release the officers was questioned by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“Last year my family and I were driving outside of Shasta Vista and were stopped by two deputy sheriffs. For half an hour we were questioned about what we do and where we come from," shared Mai Nou Vang, one of the American Hmong plaintiffs in the case. “They searched our car without a warrant and then finally released us with a ticket to have a lamp cover repaired. My story is not unique. So many of my Asian neighbors have been stopped by police this way while we were trying to go about our day, running errands and visiting loved ones.”
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"If this can happen to Siskiyou County, it can happen to any county here in California, or it can happen to any other state in the United States," Thao said.
Featured image via The Sacramento Bee
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