Friday, August 8, 2014

Maricopa County Agrees to Halt Criminal Prosecutions for Immigrants "Smuggling Themselves"


Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Maricopa County in Arizona agreed to drop its opposition to a permanent injunction barring Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery from charging immigrants with felony conspiracies to "smuggle themselves." The concession came as part of settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law on behalf of several community groups, including Somos America/We Are America Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The lawsuit challenged Maricopa County's conspiracy prosecutions in which prosecutors coerced thousands of non-smuggler migrants into pleading guilty to criminal offenses that preclude them from legalizing their status as residents of the United States. Maricopa County relied upon a 2005 state "anti-coyote" law that declared it a state crime to transport unauthorized entrants for gain in Arizona. Maricopa County, alone among Arizona's 15 counties, misused the law to arrest and prosecute non-smuggler migrants on the pretext they had conspired to smuggle themselves. Since 2006, some 14,000 non-smuggler migrants were jailed without bond and convicted of felony conspiracies to smuggle themselves in Maricopa County.

In September 2013, the U.S. District Court in Phoenix held the practice an unconstitutional state attempt to regulate immigration, an exclusive prerogative of the federal government. This week the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed that the federal court’s injunction against the conspiracy prosecutions remain in effect permanently. CHRCL General Counsel Carlos Holguín, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, welcomed the Supervisors' decision to end the unconstitutional regulation of immigration via a contrived subversion of state law.

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