Federal Judge Halts Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Illegal Raids And Arrests Of Workers

Federal Judge Halts Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Illegal Raids And Arrests Of Workers

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has received yet another setback in federal court to his scheme of continual harassment of undocumented workers. At issue were the 80 work-site raids Arpaio conducted since 2008 that resulted in the arrests of over 700 undocumented workers.

U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell ruled on Monday that the sheriff was basing his authority to make the raids on two Arizona laws that are likely to be found unconstitutional. The state laws criminalize the identity theft that is often used by undocumented workers to gain employment. Even if the names and Social Security numbers given to employers were invented, such use was made a felony. The statutes are probably unconstitutional because they attempt to supersede federal laws.

Maricopa County — Arpaio’s jurisdiction — is the only county in Arizona to use the laws to stage raids that target workers. The sheriff’s scheme worked like this: first, the undocumented workers were arrested and charged with a felony, per state law. The workers were then held in jail for weeks because Arizona law also specified that undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes couldn’t be released on bond — a provision that has been thrown out in federal court. Note that people who were charged, not convicted, weren’t eligible for bond.

Under those circumstances, the workers in most cases would eventually plead guilty to a felony, after which they were turned over to federal immigration agents. Having a felony ‘conviction’ on their records, those workers were unlikely to ever be able to enter the United States legally.

Arpaio’s schemes have been designed to usurp federal authority on immigration and wreak havoc on the Latino community — citizens and the undocumented alike. Before the ruling, the federal government had already taken away his ability to be a cooperating partner in dealing with immigration. They also found his office guilty of using traffic stops to racially profile Latinos, and further investigation focused on his other civil rights violations.

Although the sheriff had previously announced his intention to disband — on an unspecified date — the squad responsible for making the raids, anyone who takes the man at his word has probably been out in the desert sun too long without a hat. He has been so defiant of previous federal court orders that he will probably be sentenced this month on contempt of court charges.

The injunction was the result of a petition filed by Puente, an immigration rights group. Puente’s director, Carlos Garcia, told The Guardian:

“This is a huge deal. 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.”

The sheriff’s office issued a statement expressing Arpaio’s unhappiness over the decision. He said he hopes it will be appealed ‘bravely and quickly’ — an odd position for someone who has also insisted he was going to eliminate the problem anyway.

Puente’s petition was supported by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the American Civil Liberties Union. Activists who have been combating Arpaio’s long-running manipulations were jubilant over the ruling. Noemi Romero was arrested in one of his work-site raids. She said:

“When I was led away from my job in handcuffs, I never thought I would see the day that we took Arpaio and [County Attorney] Montgomery to court instead of the other way around. We lost our fear and made this lawsuit happen, and now others in our community won’t have to suffer like we did.”

Romero put her finger on the key to the solution. Bullies only operate where they can instill fear. Once the community grew tired of living under the threat of Arpaio’s illegal actions and challenged his abuses head-on, Arpaio’s power rapidly deflated.

Feature photo courtesy of Wikicommons.

Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.

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Deborah Montesano is a writer and political activist, who has just been freed from decades of wandering in the Arizona desert. She is now stunned to find herself actually living in progressive heaven — Portland, Oregon. READ MORE BY DEBORAH.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App