Federal Judge Grants Injunction in Lawsuit Filed by UCI Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and Others Against Workplace Raids

Jan. 6, 2015

IRVINE, Calif., Jan. 6, 2015 — A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction in a case brought by the UCI Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and others, Puente v. Arpaio, that challenges the constitutionality of two Arizona immigration measures passed in 2007 and 2008 to punish workers who seek to support their families by working with false documents.

Since 2008, the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used these statutes to conduct intimidating workplace raids, branding nearly 800 workers as felons and devastating their families in the process. U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell on Jan. 5 determined that the two state measures on which the raids were based are likely unconstitutional, halting their enforcement until a final decision can be made in the putative class-action lawsuit. This injunction brings an end to the last of Sheriff Arpaio’s programs targeting the immigrant community in Arizona.

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

Professor Annie Lai and NDLON Litigation Director Jessica Karp Bansal, both directors in the UCI Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, argued the preliminary injunction motion in court last October. Professor Sameer Ashar, another co-director of the clinic, also serves as attorney of record. Clinic students assisted with briefing and preparation for the argument.

Read the full order here >

“This is an enormous victory for our community,” said Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente. “Arpaio and [Maricopa County Attorney] Bill Montgomery are being stripped of the tools they use to illegally terrorize immigrant workers and families. We hope that justice will continue to prevail, that not one more worker is arrested for providing for his or her family.”

“It is such great news to know that Maricopa County will no longer be able to enforce these laws that we believe are unconstitutional,” said Sierra Nelson ’15, one of half a dozen Immigrant Rights Clinic students who worked on the case over the past year. “The Puente student team has been fortunate enough to meet several individuals harmed by the enforcement of the laws and I was relieved to know that harm would be ending soon.”

Professor Lai noted that the case would not have been possible if not for the courage of workers who came forward to challenge the raids. One such worker is Noemi Romero, a supermarket cashier whose arrest and prosecution following a workplace raid has prevented her from benefiting under President Obama’s deferred action program for young DREAMers. “When I was led away from my job in handcuffs, I never thought I would see the day that we took Arpaio and Montgomery to court instead of the other way around,” said Romero. “We lost our fear and made this lawsuit happen, and now others in our community won’t have to suffer like we did.”

“I am looking forward to the day in the future when the Immigrant Rights Clinic can help win a permanent injunction and stop these raids for good,” said Andrew Spink ’15, another clinic student who worked on the case. “As students, we have benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience of our professors and co-counsel, who have taught us a great deal. This has been a very rewarding learning experience.”

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UCI Law, which received full accreditation from the ABA effective June 6, 2014, is an innovative law school focused on educating talented and passionate lawyers driven by professional excellence, intellectual rigor and a commitment to enrich our communities through public service. UCI Law is a collegial environment, and our faculty is comprised of accomplished, nationally-ranked thought leaders from around the country with a broad range of expertise. More about the Law School is available at law.uci.edu.