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Judge blocks Sheriff Arpaio's workplace raids of undocumented workers

Civil rights activists hopeful that decision will lead to permanent halting of arrests on the job

A federal judge has ordered Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stop conducting raids on undocumented immigrants who are using stolen identities to work. Critics say the raids, carried out under two identity theft laws, have torn hundreds of families apart.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell ruled in a preliminary injunction Monday that Arpaio’s tactics were likely unconstitutional and halted the raids, at least until a federal court reaches its decision in a class-action lawsuit aimed at ending the tactic.

Civil rights advocacy group Puente Arizona is the lead plaintiff in the case against the sheriff, as well as Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The three have been leading the raids since 2008, resulting in the arrests of at least 790 immigrants.

“This is an enormous victory for our community,” Carlos García, executive director of Puente, said of the federal judge’s ruling.

“Arpaio and Montgomery are being stripped of the tools they use to illegally terrorize immigrant workers and families,” said Garcia. “We hope that justice will continue to prevail, that not one more worker is arrested for providing for his or her family and that the racist, anti-immigrant machine for which Arizona is known is dismantled completely.”

Noemi Romero, who was arrested on the job in 2012 and is a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, said she thought she would never see the day that she took Arpaio and Montgomery to court instead of the other way around, according to a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“We lost our fear and made this lawsuit happen, and now others in our community won’t have to suffer like we did,” she said.

Arpaio’s office responded: “The citizens of Maricopa County have been stripped of another protection that this state attempted to enact to protect the integrity and identity of its citizens. I do not understand how federal law can preempt state law when the federal government has proven it has no desire to protect it's citizens in these areas. I hope that the decision to appeal this particular opinion is made bravely and quickly."

Dan Pochoda, senior counsel at the ACLU of Arizona, said the federal judge’s ruling was “very important” and would likely result in a permanent halting of the raids by the end of the case.

“Arizona has various schemes to discriminate against and literally terrorize immigrant communities here,” he said. “This one is particularly important because it’s sort of the last gasp of sheriff Arpaio here in the county,” said Pacoda, in reference to Arpaio being curtailed by other litigation.

For example, a judge ordered an independent monitor and community advisory board in 2013 to ensure that Arpaio complies with constitutional requirements, after a judge found that Arpaio’s office had engaged in racial profiling and unreasonable prolonged detentions of Hispanics. It was found responsible for the deportation or forced departures of more than 26,000 undocumented immigrants, representing about a quarter of the national total, according to The Associated Press.

With wire services

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