One week away from a major filing in the ACLU civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio, the MCSO performed its 74th worksite immigration raid on the Phoenix commercial cleaning service Pro-Serv, arresting four female employees Thursday evening.
MCSO spokesman Chris Hegstrom issued the following statement in response to repeated requests from the media:
"Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio can confirm that search warrants were served on Pro-Serve [sic] Commercial Cleaning, a janitorial service company that employs hundreds of workers who provide cleaning services to over a hundred locations throughout the greater metro area.
"Arpaio says four female employees have been taken into custody for ID theft/forgery so far and the investigation is continuing. No further comment can be made at this time."
The four women were not identified in the release, but MCSO mugshots online show four women, dressed in identical yellow-green shirts, each booked on charges of identity theft and forgery, class four felonies that make them nonbondable under Arizona law, if they are presumed to be undocumented.
Pro-Serv's lawyer Julie Pace confirmed the four as Pro-Serv employees.
Pace said the MCSO's warrant was for personnel files on 120 persons. She also stated that deputies confiscated two company computers. As for the employees taken into custody, Pace said she believed they were arrested at two separate sites of Pro-Serv clients.
In a statement to the press, Pace denied that the company engages in unlawful employment practices.
"Pro-Serv is a Company that takes immigration compliance seriously," said Pace. "The Company has taken several steps to ensure immigration compliance and goes above and beyond the requirements of the law."
She added that, "The Company has been using E-Verify [to check prospective employees' work eligibility] since 2008."
Pro-immigration activist Lydia Guzman of the organization Respect/Respeto was one of the first to hear of the raid, which was conducted late Thursday night, apparently without the MCSO tipping off the press.
Guzman told me she began receiving calls from Pro-Serv employees around 9:30 PM Thursday evening.
"They said, `Hey, we do cleaning inside offices and the place is being stormed, the sheriffs are here,'" she explained. "Some of them were hiding. Others were running."
She said one women called her while hiding beneath a desk. Callers told Guzman that some of those arrested were taken into custody while cleaning medical offices, located near St. Joseph's Hospital.
Guzman stopped by the company's office near 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard last night. There, she spotted MCSO vehicles, and through window blinds could see deputies confiscating files.
She said she didn't believe the media had been informed of the raid.
Immigration attorney Delia Salvatierra handles many cases involving workers rounded up in Arpaio's worksite actions. She believes the sheriff is sending a message to federal Judge G. Murray Snow, who earlier this year issued a ruling in Melendres, finding Arpaio's office guilty of racial profiling.
Snow has instructed lawyers for both sides in the case to submit proposals for the enforcement of the judge's order by August 16. An oral argument on the issue is set for August 30.
"I think Arpaio's taunting the federal court," she told me. "Basically, he's saying, `I don't have to agree with anything you do or say, I can do anything I want.'"
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Technically, Arpaio is conducting the worksite raids under state identity theft and fraud statutes.
But the MCSO has made a habit of not arresting or criminally prosecuting employers, focusing instead on undocumented workers, who are almost always Latino.
Thus, giving the lie to Arpaio's attorney Tim Casey's claim to Judge Snow in a recent hearing that, "The MCSO is out of the federal immigration enforcement business."
Because as long as Arpaio's deputies continue to "round up the brown" under the false pretense of fighting identity theft, the MCSO remains in the immigration enforcement business, no matter what happens in Melendres.