Puente v. Arpaio is a lawsuit which challenges the constitutionality of Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio’s worksite raids and the Arizona laws that have been used by Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery to systematically arrest and prosecute undocumented immigrants for working with false identification. The 7-year campaign of enforcement separated hundreds of workers from their families, suppressed workers’ rights, eroded the social fabric of our community and instilled great fear. Puente responded to the worksite raids by advocating on behalf of arrested workers in order to try to reunite them with their families. At a time when those who opposed Maricopa County’s practices were faced with the threat of public intimidation and retaliation, undocumented workers courageously stood up in the face of these significant threats to protect their community and fight for justice. The case was filed in June 2014 and it is still ongoing. It builds on years of organizing and advocacy by Puente against the laws and their implementation in and around Phoenix.
“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. We lost our fear to make this lawsuit happen. We don’t want others in our community to suffer like we did.”
— Noemi Romero, whose arrest and conviction following a workplace raid, at the supermarket where she worked as a cashier, prevented her from benefiting under President Obama’s deferred action program protecting people who arrived in the United States as children
Why This Case Matters
Puente and its legal team are fighting the enforcement of Arizona’s identity theft and forgery laws against undocumented workers to stop the harm from unjust arrests and prosecutions. Through this case, we are also reasserting the dignity of immigrant workers criminalized by the raids in Arizona.
The constant threat of criminal sanctions for conduct linked to immigrants’ social and economic subsistence is one way that local communities manage, control, and sometimes expel immigrants from their borders. Puente filed this suit to put an end to this practice in Maricopa County. By taking Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Montgomery to court, immigrant workers seek to expose their unconstitutional practices. The case is also important to reverse the harm done to the two plaintiffs who were convicted under these unjust laws—two immigrants working in a supermarket and a fast food restaurant whose lives were upended from their traumatic arrests, months in jail and threats of deportation.
The case seeks an end to the targeting of immigrant workers, and justice for these victims. The lawsuit has already led Sheriff Arpaio to disband the unit which conducted years of brutal worksite raids, but the threat of further arrests and prosecutions remains.
Puente will continue to vigorously carry on its mission by fighting the unconstitutionality of the worker identity provisions, permanently stop the workplace raids, and secure justice for the victims. Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Montgomery should acknowledge the harm that they have inflicted. Instead of targeting vulnerable immigrant workers, the county should establish mechanisms to protect their rights.
Puente has turned the very legal system that marginalized undocumented immigrants into a vehicle for empowerment. By taking Arpaio and Maricopa County to court, immigrant workers are able to reframe the narrative and use the power of their own personal stories to expose unjust policies and the contradictions of domestic immigration policy. Because of Puente’s work and this case, Puente has already created awareness and protections for migrants in the community. Puente will continue to fight the unjust and demeaning targeting of migrant communities.
“We vow to keep fighting Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery and will not rest until they stop targeting our community. The laws on which the raids were based left many immigrants with felony convictions merely for working to provide for their families. The laws are cruel, unjust, and degrading. We knew that it would be a long court battle, but after years of raids, the hundreds of immigrants arrested, we also know the importance of continuing the fight. In the meantime, we will also continue to open our doors to those in the community affected by the raids.”
Francisca Porchas, Organizing Director of Puente Arizona, a lead plaintiff in the case