U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield has ruled that law enforcement agencies in Maricopa County, Arizona can no longer arrest illegal immigrants as conspirators for paying “coyotes” to help smuggle them into the United States. Maricopa County and its Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has been one of the toughest opponents of illegal immigration. Arpaio and his deputies have arrested over 2,000 immigrants with “conspiracy to transport themselves,” according to ThinkProgress.
Broomfield’s justification for the ruling is that federal law considers the individual issues of illegal immigrants that pay coyotes as a civil issue, rather than a criminal one. Arpaio’s practice of arresting such individuals undermines the federal law regarding the issue, Broomfield believes. It is hard to imagine a more blatant conflict” than the issue of county laws undermining federal laws, Broomfield explained in his 60-page ruling on the case.
Maricopa County is the most populous county in Arizona. The county has been the subject of controversy in the nation-wide illegal immigration debate, as it has some of the strictest laws in the country yet also sees a large influx of immigrants crossing the border from Mexico illegally. It was a group of activists from the county that initially challenged the practice of charging immigrants that was brought to Broomfield. The group of activists included the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, Somos America, former Democratic State Senator David Lujan and Arizona State University professor LaDawn Haglund. The group was seeking a change to the law rather than any monetary compensation.
The activists’ attorney Peter Schey, expressed his support of the ruling in the following statement: “[The ruling] will hopefully bring to an end a mean-spirited and short-sighted policy that has severely harmed a large number of immigrants during the past several years in an entirely unconstitutional manner.”
Several states, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have similarly harsh immigration legislation.