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Joe Arpaio Can't Arrest People for Smuggling Themselves Into Country, Judge Rules

The scheme by county officials to round up immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves into the country has been busted up by a federal judge.

As a result of yet another immigration-related lawsuit filed against the county, a federal judge ruled that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and their successors, cannot arrest and prosecute people for self-smuggling -- a plot that was the brainchild of disbarred and disgraced former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

See also:
-Bill Montgomery Prosecuting Fewer Immigrants for Smuggling Themselves

U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield's order makes things pretty clear:

Defendants Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney William G. Montgomery, and their agents, employees, successors in office, and all other persons who are in active concert or participation with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, are permanently enjoined from further implementing the Maricopa Migrant Conspiracy Policy including detaining, arresting, and prosecuting persons for conspiring to transport themselves, and no one else, in violation of Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2319;

Although state courts upheld the policy, Judge Broomfield ruled that it conflicts with federal law.

"The Policy effectively criminalizes conduct which federal law does not," his order states. "More specifically, by deeming it a felony for unlawfully present aliens to conspire to transport themselves, the Policy is 'criminalizing unlawful presence, a stance plainly at odds with federal law.'"

That was one of the main ways Arpaio was able to snatch up so many undocumented immigrants, and although it wasn't used as much by Montgomery, it was still used.

Our colleague Ray Stern found that there were 294 people prosecuted for self-smuggling in 2008, 493 in 2009, 369 in 2010, 330 in 2011, and 155 through most of 2012.

Of course, Arpaio and Montgomery still hook up for workplace raids, in which immigrant workers are many times locked up without bond on charges of fraud and identity theft.

Read the order on the next page.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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