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UCI clinic plays role in halting workplace raids in Arizona

A federal judge on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction halting workplace raids in Arizona that targeted undocumented employees — an early victory in a case brought by the UC Irvine Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and others.

Nearly 800 undocumented Arizona job seekers have been charged with identity theft in connection with the use of fake or stolen IDs since the passage in 2007 and 2008 of two Arizona immigration measures, according to reports. The measures expanded the crime of identity theft to include people seeking jobs without valid papers. A lawsuit, Puente vs. Arpaio, brought last year by the UCI clinic and others, challenged the constitutionality of the measures.

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In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell said the Arizona measures are probably unconstitutional and the lawsuit was likely to succeed on the merits.

Annie Lai, a law professor at UCI, said the Arizona measures "terrorized immigrant workers and their families."

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Last October, Lai and other attorneys argued that a federal law, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, trumps Arizona law on immigration issues. The measures used in Arizona, Lai said, discouraged immigrant workers, who are especially vulnerable to workplace exploitation, from reporting employment abuses.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a defendant in the suit, said the injunction "stripped" county residents of state protections, according to a statement.

"I do not understand how federal law can preempt state law when the federal government has proven it has no desire to protect its citizens in these areas," Arpaio said.

The plaintiffs in the case include Phoenix-based human rights organization Puente, its members and a Phoenix Unitarian minister, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. Other co-counsel include the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the ACLU of Arizona and defense attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado.

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