Judge blocks Arizona sheriff's workplace raids

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tough, headline-grabbing punishments have earned him diehard supporters and fiery opponents.

Story highlights

  • A federal judge rules that Sheriff Joe Arpaio can't enforce his state's identity theft laws
  • The laws are likely trumped by federal laws, the judge rules
  • Arpaio has used the laws to justify workplace raids

(CNN)A federal judge Monday blocked one of the most well-known tools used to crack down on illegal immigration by the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio must stop enforcing Arizona's identify theft laws, U.S. District Judge David Campbell ruled Monday, granting a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed against Arpaio.
The lawsuit, filed by the Puente immigrant rights group, argues that the laws are unconstitutional and have been used by Arpaio and his office to target undocumented immigrants in workplace raids.
    Arpaio's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, he's defended the workplace raids and said his department has been forced to step in because federal authorities haven't done enough to enforce immigration laws.
    Campbell said the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that the state's identify theft laws are preempted by federal laws, and that Arpaio must stop enforcing the laws until a final decision is reached in the lawsuit.
    Carlos Garcia, executive director of Puente, described the judge's ruling Monday as an "enormous victory."
    "Arpaio and (Maricopa County Attorney Bill) Montgomery are being stripped of the tools they use to illegally terrorize immigrant workers and families," he said in a statement. "We hope that justice will continue to prevail, that not one more worker is arrested for providing for his or her family and that the racist, anti-immigrant machine for which Arizona is known is dismantled completely."
    Arpaio's tough, headline-grabbing punishments have earned him diehard supporters and fiery opponents.
    He's issued pink underwear to the men detained in the county's jails and said he is saving taxpayers money by removing salt and pepper from prison meals.
    Last year, he said inmates who allegedly defaced American flags placed in their jail cells would be punished with a diet of bread and water.
    In 2013, a federal court in Phoenix ruled that Arpaio's handling of people of Latino descent was not tough enforcement of immigration laws but instead amounted to racial and ethnic profiling. The judge later ordered a federal monitor to keep tabs on Arpaio's office and make sure officers weren't racially profiling anymore.
    Last year, he filed a lawsuit against U.S. President Barack Obama over his executive actions on immigration.
      But a judge dismissed Arpaio's lawsuit in December, ruling that Arpaio didn't have standing to bring the lawsuit and couldn't show he'd been harmed by Obama's changes.
      In a court filing last month, Arpaio said he was disbanding his office's criminal employment unit, the squad that conducted the workplace raids, because federal court decisions had already blocked certain Arizona laws.