A federal judge in Arizona heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit that seeks to end workplace raids that have resulted in hundreds of immigrant workers getting arrested over the last few years.
The lawsuit was brought forward by Puente Arizona, a local immigrant rights organization. It challenges two identity theft state laws approved in 2007 and 2008. The laws make it a new crime to use the information of another person, including a real or fictitious person, with the intent to get or keep employment.
The plaintiffs argue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Montgomery have been using these laws as their legal foundation to carry out workplace raids that target undocumented workers. Since 2008, Arpaios deputies have conducted 83 operations and arrested 782 people charged with forgery and identity theft.
On Thursday, the plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge David Campbell to issue a preliminary injunction to prohibit Arpaios office and prosecutors from enforcing the two identity theft laws while the lawsuit is pending in court.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued during Thursdays court hearing that the laws are unconstitutional and are preempted by federal law. They also claimed that the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office and the Maricopa County Attorneys Office use the identity theft laws to carry out a campaign of workplace raids that are causing irreparable harm on plaintiffs and immigrants in Arizona.
We have tried to stop the raids and counteract the suffering they cause by fighting individual cases, protesting Arpaio and Montgomerys actions, and bringing to light their impact on children, families, and workers, stated Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona. Because we cant wait any longer for the raids to stop, we are turning to the courts in the hopes that justice will finally prevail.
Attorneys representing the defendants argued Thursday that the purpose of the identity theft laws is not to target undocumented workers. Instead, they said the laws are meant to combat the serious problem of identity theft in the state. In addition, they said the language of the laws is completely neutral and doesnt make any mention of immigration or undocumented immigrants.
But attorneys representing the plaintiffs disputed that argument, saying theres evidence that shows the legislatures who supported the laws wanted them approved to go after undocumented immigrants.
They pointed to past statements made by lead supporters, including then-Arizona House Rep. Russell Pearce who said the laws were necessary because the feds have not done their job to combat illegal immigration which he said threatened the destruction of our country.
The defendants attorneys also took aim at Puente Arizona, saying the group had not done a good job of explaining how the identity theft laws affected their members and why the preliminary injunction was needed. They also questioned why the group took so long to file the lawsuit given that the state laws were approved in 2007 and 2008.
The plaintiffs attorneys responded by saying that Puente Arizona members have been pressing the issue for years but that they hadnt filed the lawsuit because they didnt have the funds to hire attorneys to represent them in court.