Joe Arpaio's Workplace Raids the Subject of a Lawsuit Filed by Immigrant-Rights Groups

After more than 80 workplace raids carried out by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, immigrant-rights groups have teamed up on a lawsuit that seeks to put and end to the raids.

The groups, including Puente Arizona, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and others, say MCSO is overstepping its bounds with felony arrests of undocumented workers.

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Using a false or fictitious identity to gain employment only became a crime in Arizona through a pair of laws in 2007 and 2008, and those laws have since been used by Arpaio's office to swoop in on places like restaurants and arrest undocumented cooks and dishwashers. Nearly 800 arrests have been made to date.

"Maricopa County is the only jurisdiction systematically enforcing these tools given to it by the state legislature," ACLU of Arizona legal director Dan Pochoda says in a statement. "We know from past experience that when the MCSO gets into the business of immigration enforcement, it's a recipe for discrimination and abuse."

For one, the class-action lawsuit argues that Arizona's laws, championed by recalled Senate President Russell Pearce, are trumped by federal law.

"Arizona's passage of laws to penalize undocumented workers' use of false or fictitious identities to 'obtain or continue employment' directly intrudes upon the federal government's exclusive authority in the (federally-created) employment verification process," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit points out various portions of the law that directly conflict with the federal employment laws.

The groups also claim that the laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal-protection clause, alleging that the "Legislature acted in a discriminatory fashion" in the process of passing these laws.

Using a false identification to work was made a Class 3 felony, whereas someone under the age of 21 who uses a fake ID to buy liquor is guilty only of a misdemeanor.

Many of Pearce's own statements from when he urged the passage of these bills are used against him, as evidence that these laws were intended to discriminate against people based on their alienage.

"Proponents of the bill were committed to ensuring that workers under would receive a harsh penalty under the measure, because of their undocumented status and because the provision had to do with immigration," the lawsuit states, alongside quotes from the legislators speaking to that effect.

The lawsuit also explains how the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Maricopa County Attorney's Office take full advantage of these laws, in a scheme explored at length by our colleague Stephen Lemons, in which simply making up a Social Security Number will keep an undocumented worker jailed until trial, without the option of bond.

The plaintiffs in the case are several of the undocumented workers who have been picked up in Arpaio's raids. They're requesting a permanent injunction preventing the county from enforcing those laws against undocumented workers, and to have the plaintiffs' records expunged.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found below:

Puente v Arpaio Complaint

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley