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Immigration Raid Case Goes to Federal Court

Protestors from the group Puente Arizona demonstrate against immigration raids that are the subject of a case heard in federal court on Thursday. (Puente Arizona)
Protestors from the group Puente Arizona demonstrate against immigration raids that are the subject of a case heard in federal court on Thursday. (Puente Arizona)
October 14, 2016

PHOENIX – A federal judge heard arguments Thursday in Phoenix in a case challenging Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's workplace raids that, for years, rounded up undocumented immigrants. A coalition of immigrants' rights groups is asking for a summary judgment to put a permanent stop to the raids and prosecutions.

Carlos Garcia is director of the group Puente Arizona, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. He said the raids created a climate of fear.

"The worksite raids terrorized our community for about eight years," he said. "They separated hundreds of families and traumatized an entire generation of people who didn't know if their loved ones would come home or not."

The raids came after passage of the "Legal Arizona Workplace Act," a state law that made it a felony to falsify your identity for the purpose of gaining employment. The plaintiffs argue that the law was passed with discriminatory intent and should be declared unconstitutional. The Sheriff's Criminal Employment Unit shut down amid the controversy in 2014.

Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said the effect of the raids was widespread.

"There were over 80 Maricopa County workplaces that were targeted," she said. "Over 800 workers that were picked up out of supermarkets and car washes and restaurants, brought out in handcuffs, paraded before cameras, and targeted for working to try to feed their families."

In a separate, criminal case, the feds announced earlier this week that they will prosecute Sheriff Arpaio for violating a court order that had required him to stop the raids. Arpaio is running for re-election and is reportedly lagging behind his opponent in the polls.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ