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Immigrant-rights advocates sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio

"I don't call it 'raids'" Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told msnbc of the workplace searches that have led to the arrests of hundreds of immigrant workers.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/Getty)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with a reporter outside a city jail.

A new lawsuit filed Wednesday against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio challenges business raids conducted by the Arizona sheriff's office that have led to the arrests of hundreds of immigrant workers on charges of using fake or stolen IDs to secure employment. 

"Arpaio is using these laws to circumvent federal immigration laws."'

“We’ve finally come up with this lawsuit as a way to stop the raids,” Carlos Garcia, an organizer for Puente Arizona, one of several plaintiffs in the case, told msnbc. The suit alleges that state laws allowing Arpaio's deputies to stage workplace raids in search of immigrants using fake or stolen IDs violate federal law. 

Puente Arizona became involved in the case when families approached the organization seeking help, Garcia said. Those arrested face felony charges that could render them ineligible for any future relief from immigration reform, including a possible path to citizenship. As such, the plaintiffs who have been convicted of felonies are seeking to have their criminal records expunged.

“These laws were created to specifically target undocumented people to be criminalized,” Garcia said, adding, “Arpaio is using these laws to circumvent federal immigration laws." 

Arpaio, not the least bit surprised by the suit, told msnbc he would not call the searches "raids," but warranted searches conducted to enforce identity theft violations and to protect victims "who have their social security or drivers licenses stolen."

“These identity thieves will not get sanctuary in Maricopa County as long as I’m sheriff," he said. "We did arrests of over 700, 800 suspects through the course of several years for fake identification. And these are felonies."

The legal challenge at the heart of the lawsuit against Arpaio is similar to the one brought against Arizona's controversial Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Acts, otherwise known as SB 1070, which received widespread attention in 2010 -- also during  Arpaio's tenure as sheriff -- for its requirement that all non-citizens carry documentation and allowed law enforcement to question the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the state illegally. Portions of that law were struck down in 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that they were preempted by federal law.

"These identity thieves will not get sanctuary in Maricopa County as long as I’m sheriff."'

"I'm not overly concerned," Arpaio said when asked about the latest suit. "I'm not a lawyer, and I've got lawyers looking at it."

Garcia, meanwhile, told msnbc that he anticipates the lawsuit will succeed. “We expect for a judge to rule against Arpaio and his raids; we expect these raids to be found unconstitutional.”

Arpaio, seemingly unfazed by the suit or the demonstrations he described seeing outside his office Wednesday, said simply, "I'll see 'em in court."