On June 18, 2014, Puente Arizona, an immigrant advocacy organization, along with two undocumented workers from the state of Arizona and a minister, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs sued the state of Arizona under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by private counsel, the ACLU of Arizona, the immigrant rights clinic of U.C. Irvine Law School, and the National Day Labor Organizing Network, plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent further unconstitutional arrests and prosecutions, attorney’s fees as well as costs of suit, and the expungement of records for the two plaintiffs who, they alleged, had been improperly convicted. The plaintiffs challenged certain provisions of Arizona’s identity theft laws, which prohibit using a false identity to gain employment.
The plaintiffs claimed that the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause mandates that federal law preempts that state law, because employment of immigrants is an area over which Congress has reserved exclusive authority.
Arizona amended its identity theft laws to combat the “growing problem” of employment related identity theft. H.B. 2779, also called the “Legal Arizona Workers Act,” (“LAWA”) amended Arizona’s “aggravated identity theft” statute, A.R.S. § 13-2009. It defined aggravated identity theft as the use of information of any another person, real or fictitious person, with the intent of obtaining employment. H.B. 2745, titled “Employment of Unauthorized Aliens,” (“EUA”) supplemented the Legal Arizona Workers Act by defining the offense of identity theft to include use of another’s information, real or fictitious, “with the intent to obtain or continue employment.” The bill specifically made this type of forgery, targeted at undocumented workers, a Class 3 felony, punishable by up to 7 years. These bills were passed, at least in part, in order to solve Arizona’s “illegal immigration problem”.
The plaintiffs claimed that in enacting Section 1 of LAWA and Section 1 of EUA (“Section 1s”), Arizona impermissibly intruded on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate immigration, legislated in a field occupied by the federal government and imposed unauthorized burdens and penalties on noncitizens, all in violation of the Supremacy Clause. The plaintiffs claimed that Arizona’s worker identity provisions were therefore facially preempted and the defendants may not enforce them. The plaintiffs further claimed that Section 1s constitute impermissible discrimination against noncitizens on the basis of alienage, in violation of the federal Constitution's Equal Protection clause.
The two undocumented plaintiffs in this case claimed to be personally affected by these laws. The plaintiffs, neither of which had ever previously been charged with or convicted of a crime, were arrested at their respective places of employment by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”) deputies. Both were charged with using a false identity to work. Both plaintiffs pled guilty to their respective charges and were left with felony convictions that they believe will follow them for life, possibly impacting their chances for future immigration relief.
On August 7, 2014, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint and filed a motion for preliminary injunction the following day. On September 10, 2014, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and lack of jurisdiction along with a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint.
On January 5, 2015, Judge Campbell granted plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction and enjoined the defendants from enforcing A.R.S. § 2009(A)(3) and the portion of A.R.S. § 13−2008(A) that addresses actions committed "with the intent to obtain or continue employment." 76 F.Supp.3d 833 (2015). All the defendants -- the State, the County, and the Sheriff -- appealed.
While the appeal was being litigated in the 9th Circuit, the case continued in the District Court. On March 27, 2015 Judge Campbell denied reconsideration of the preliminary injunction. 2015 WL 1432674.
On July 7, 2015, the plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint. A month later Judge Campbell granted defendant’s motion that the matter not be conducted as a class action.
In addition, Judge Campbell decided several discovery related matters: See 2016 WL 722949 (February 24, 2016); 2016 WL 2587991 (May 5, 2016).
On May 2, 2016, the 9th Circuit completed its review of the preliminary injunction appeal, and reversed the district court. In an opinion by Judge Richard C. Tallman, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court erred in its ruling that Arizona’s employment-related identity theft laws were preempted in all applications. Therefore, the preliminary injunction was vacated and remanded for further proceedings to adjudicate the plaintiffs' remaining claims, including the "as-applied" preemption challenge. (The Court dismissed Maricopa County’s appeal, in particular, for lack of jurisdiction.) 2016 WL 1730588, --- F.3d ---.
As of May 19, 2016, this case is ongoing.Matt Ramirez - 05/24/2016