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Federal judge bars AZ sheriff from enforcing immigration and identity theft laws

Immigration laws

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(NaturalNews) A federal judge has once again blocked Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio from ordering raids of employers with the aim of detaining undocumented immigrants who have used stolen identities to work, under the provisions of two state identity theft laws.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell ruled that the raids by Arpaio and his department were likely unconstitutional and against federal law, Courthouse News Service reported.

Campbell's ruling stemmed from a June 2014 lawsuit filed by Puente Arizona, a civil rights organization that challenged the constitutionality of the raids by Arpaio. Also named in the suit were Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

As reported by Courthouse News:

Arpaio used the state laws, which criminally punish people who use another person's identity to secure a job, to conduct his workplace raids.

Arizona House Bill 2779 in 2007 created a new offense of aggravated identity theft for people using false information or the information of another person. Arizona House Bill 2745 supplemented the act in 2008 by adding the intent to gain employment as part of the offense.

The sheriff, who has a history of being thwarted by federal courts and the Obama Administration, announced in December that he planned to disband his immigration investigation unit by the end of January or by early February, after it completed an ongoing theft investigation.

"We lost our fear"

Campbell, in his ruling, said he nevertheless found that the civil rights group had standing to continue its suit against Arpaio, despite his decision to disband the unit. Other law enforcement entities in Maricopa County could still enforce the state's laws, including Montgomery, which Campbell said placed the members of the class at risk of prosecution.

"First, many Puente members, including leaders, have reduced their participation in Puente's activities because the identity theft laws have caused financial difficulties and made them afraid of arrest and retaliation," Campbell wrote. "Second, Puente has diverted substantial resources to respond to the workplace raids through which the MCSO has enforced the identity theft laws."

Noemi Romero, a plaintiff in the suit, was arrested during a raid in 2012. She said she never thought the day would come when Arpaio and Montgomery would be taken to court.

"We lost our fear and made this lawsuit happen, and now others in our community won't have to suffer like we did," Romero said in a statement.

Campbell also found that state laws in Arizona regarding immigration enforcement were pre-empted by federal immigration law, under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, and that the class-action suit likely would succeed in proving that regulating identity theft by unauthorized and undocumented immigrants was the sole purview of the federal government.

Opponents, in the past, have noted that Arizona law essentially mimics federal law, but that has mattered little to most federal courts in the state.

Law applies equally to citizens and non-citizens, but that doesn't matter

"The Arizona identity theft laws include only a criminal sanction. They make the use of false documents to obtain employment a felony offense punishable by a prison term that may exceed five years," Campbell wrote. "Under the federal scheme, federal authorities have a range of options," which includes issuing penalties, revoking immigrant status or prison terms of less than five years.

The Arizona laws apply equally to both U.S. citizens and illegal aliens, but, Campbell found, the "titles of H.B. 2779 and H.B. 2745 - the 'Legal Arizona Workers' Act' and 'Employment of Unauthorized Aliens' - reflect a clear intent to regulate employment of unauthorized aliens" by the Arizona Legislature.

"This is an enormous victory for our community," Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente, said in a statement, according to Courthouse News. "Arpaio and Montgomery are being stripped of the tools they use to illegally terrorize immigrant workers and families.

"We hope that justice will continue to prevail, that not one more worker is arrested for providing for his or her family and that the racist, anti-immigrant machine for which Arizona is known is dismantled completely," he added.





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