Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Anti-Immigrant Workplace Raids Enjoined by Federal Court

In yet another blow to Arizona's state-imposed system of terror targeting the undocumented, U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell on Monday enjoined both Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Sheriff Joe Arpaio from enforcing two identity theft statutes that underpinned Arpaio's infamous worksite raids.

Campbell, a conservative judge nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, found that the Arizona laws passed in 2007 and 2008 were preempted by a federal immigration system regulating the employment of unauthorized aliens.

These two Arizona statutes improperly targeted the use of fraudulent ID by the undocumented to gain employment, according to Campbell, a situation already addressed by federal law.

Campbell used the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 decision on Arizona's immigrant-hunting legislation, Senate Bill 1070, to knock down the oft-heard nativist argument that such state laws are copacetic because they generally mirror federal law.

The jurist found, as did the Supreme Court, that an "inconsistency in sanctions" was enough for state attempts at regulating immigration to conflict with a complex federal scheme.

Read Judge Campbell's decision enjoining Montgomery and Arpaio from enforcing state ID theft statutes.

He also rejected attempts by the defendants to argue that the laws were somehow neutral, pointing out that the titles of the bills ultimately passed by the legislature, such as the "Legal Arizona Workers Act" (signed by former Arizona Governor and nominal Democrat Janet Napolitano) and the "Employment of Unauthorized Aliens" law, spoke directly the intent of the measures.

Moreover, the judge seemed to agree with the ACLU of Arizona, which brought the case on behalf of the Phoenix human rights group Puente, that the laws in part were inspired by the bigotry and intolerance of Arizona's elected officials.

Campbell writes that the plaintiffs argue that "the identity theft laws are motivated by animus or the desire to punish a politically unpopular group," and he quotes from Arizona legislators bolster this point.

Plaintiffs cite numerous statements by legislators that allegedly show hostility towards this group. See, e.g., Doc. 23, ¶ 56 (state representative urging members not to stand back "while we wait the destruction of our country" and "the destruction of neighborhoods" by illegal aliens); ¶ 64 (state senator saying he wanted to make sure workers would be charged with a serious enough crime to guarantee they "stay in jail" while the case is pending and then be immediately deported). Plaintiffs allege that unauthorized aliens are a politically unpopular group that has been subjected to frequent discrimination in Arizona.

Such sentiments should be familiar to anyone living in Arizona over the past decade.

Truth be told, our elected representatives were riding a wave of hatred that engulfed much of the voting populace.

The identity theft laws enjoined by Campbell worked in concert with Prop 100, which effectively denied bail to anyone suspected of being in the country illegally and charged with a class four felony or above. The ID theft laws in question fit the latter requirement.

Prop 100 was approved in 2006 by nearly 80 percent of the electorate.

Earlier this year, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Prop 100 unconstitutional And despite an attempt by Montgomery to block the Ninth's decision, the Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Arpaio used the ID theft laws to raid businesses and round up as many "illegals" as his deputies could get. Those individuals were held nonbondable under Prop 100, and thereby coerced into pleading guilty to felonies that made the removable from the country.

At one time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was working in concert with the county attorney's office to ensure that the undocumented caught up in this insidious system ultimately would be deported and never allowed to return.

Arpaio recently informed the court that the MCSO would be disbanding its Criminal Employment Unit, responsible for the investigation of businesses subject to the sheriff's raids.

But Campbell concluded that Arpaio's action didn't matter to the arguments at hand, because the CEU was still going to be open for business, perhaps till February. Also, other law enforcement agencies could continue to enforce these laws and the county attorney could continue to prosecute the resulting cases, unless the MCAO was enjoined.

In response to the ruling, the MCAO issued a statement from Bill Montgomery, saying that an appeal of Campbell's injunction was being contemplated.

Montgomery also attempted a deflection with the tried and true conservative tactic of blaming Obama for everything.

"Today's ruling underscores yet again the consequences of federal inaction and the Obama Administration's indifference to the effects of unlawful immigration practices," the statement read. "While pretending to address the concerns of people admittedly violating the law, the victims of identity theft are deprived of the State of Arizona's protection."

The reference to "victims of identity theft" is a massive canard. Often there was no victim, with the undocumented worker merely concocting a Social Security Number in order to gain employment.

When I wrote about Prop 100 and the ID theft laws in early 2013, I asked Montgomery about cases where there was no identifiable victim.

He argued that there could be future victims, if the non-existent Social Security Numbers were ever issued.

I wish I could just blame various politicians for these laws, but why should our elected leaders be profiles in courage when the electorate itself is poisoned by hate?

Now that this hate is on the wane, we should consider the thousands of families brutally crushed by enforcement of these laws by the MCSO and other local law enforcement agencies, and wonder if those of us not guided by bigotry did enough to stand in the way of the tyranny of the majority.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons