Immigrant Rights Advocates Try Again To Block Arizona Laws Behind Worksite Raids

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 7:23am
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A federal judge heard a new round of arguments Thursday over Arizona’s identity theft laws that are used to prosecute unauthorized immigrants who obtained jobs using fake documents.

The laws make it a crime to use a stolen identity for employment purposes, and were the basis for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s worksite raids used to arrest unauthorized immigrants.

Immigrant rights groups including Puente are trying to get the laws blocked in cases related to immigration status.

“Sheriff Arpaio’s worksite raids and the prosecution of undocumented workers for ID theft and forgery was kind of the last stand in Maricopa County’s immigration policies and so by bringing this case Puente was trying to take that last tool away from Sheriff Arpaio,” said Annie Lai, a clinical professor at University of California Irvine School of Law who represents Puente in the case.

Lai’s team previously convinced the judge to block the laws in question but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling. Now Lai’s team came back to try again with different legal arguments.

They are arguing the way Maricopa County enforces these laws is preempted by the federal government, which is solely responsible for overseeing immigration in an employment context.

But lawyers for Sheriff Arpaio, the county and the state disagree.

“If someone is misusing the identification of an Arizona resident we should be able to charge them with a state-level offense and then prosecute them for that,” said County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

At Thursday’s oral argument, lawyers for the plaintiffs presented evidence that the laws in question were created with discriminatory intent. They shared quotes from state lawmakers who passed the laws in question as a way to discourage illegal immigration.

A lawyer for the state argued that in 2007 when one of the laws was passed employment-related identity theft accounted for 33 percent of identity theft crimes in the state.

Arpaio disbanded his unit that used to do worksite raids during an earlier phase of litigation in this case.