In another strike against Arizona's strict immigration enforcement policies, a federal judge this week blocked two laws that had underpinned local workplace raids targeting undocumented immigrants. The laws had been a hallmark of one of Arizona’s most notorious sheriffs, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County.
Arpaio, who has designated himself the “toughest sheriff in America,” must halt unannounced raids targeting undocumented immigrant workers, following a decision by U.S. District Judge David Campbell Monday. The judge ruled that two state laws that Arpaio had used as justification for the raids were likely unconstitutional since federal law preempts them and placed a preliminary injunction on the practice.
The state laws made it a felony for undocumented immigrants to use stolen identities to obtain employment. Immigrant rights advocacy group Puente filed a class-action lawsuit against the laws, which it said provided a legal justification for more than 80 workplace raids Arpaio had conducted since 2008, which led to the arrests of nearly 800 undocumented immigrants.
"This is a huge deal," said Puente Executive Director Carlos Garcia in an interview with The Guardian. "It was one of the last remaining things that sheriff Arpaio was doing to terrorize our community and now we’ve taken that away from him."
County attorney Bill Montgomery issued a statement on the decision Monday, saying it "underscores yet again the consequences of federal inaction and the Obama administration's indifference to the effects of unlawful immigration practices," according to The Arizona Republic.
Arpaio had already announced last month that he would be disbanding the squad in charge of the raids, which had faced sharp backlash from Washington and immigration advocates. The sheriff had touted the raids as part of a strict enforcement strategy that was necessary in light of the federal government’s inaction in tackling illegal immigration. But the court ruling looks to dismantle the last threads of legal support for the controversial practice.
Arpaio has been one of the country’s most publicized crusaders against illegal immigration during his 22 years as sheriff of Maricopa County. But in recent years, federal courts have begun to limit his enforcement powers and strike down some of the state’s controversial immigration laws. One ruling in 2013 found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s enforcement operations racially profiled Latino drivers.
Last year, federal courts overturned a ban on bail for undocumented immigrants in jail, and dismissed a state request to block young undocumented immigrants from applying for drivers licenses. In December, a court also threw out Arpaio’s lawsuit against the Obama administration over its executive action on immigration, saying the sheriff didn’t have any standing for bringing about the lawsuit.