The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, lead minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, was one of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit, Puente v. Arpaio, which challenged two recent state laws focused on targeting undocumented workers for identity theft. U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell ruled the raids are likely unconstitutional and are causing irreparable harm to those arrested, and so they must stop until a final resolution of the class-action lawsuit.
“This is a great victory!” said Frederick-Gray, a longtime advocate for immigrant justice in Arizona and nationally. “Today, the raids by Sheriff Arpaio have been dealt a major blow. I am also pleased that the judge recognized that I, as a county taxpayer who disagrees with the sheriff’s raids, have a legal claim to stop the enforcement of these unconstitutional policies.”
Puente, a Phoenix-based human rights group, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. It argues that state laws creating new categories of identity theft are unconstitutional because they violate the Equal Protection Clause by targeting undocumented workers and because immigration is exclusively a federal function. Since the laws were passed, in 2007 and 2008, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has conducted more than 80 workplace raids and arrested more than 780 workers. Those found using false Social Security numbers, including two women who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, were charged with felony identity theft.
Frederick-Gray and others say that the raids are tearing families apart and misdirecting taxpayer resources when true identity theft involves thieves who steal personal information in order to buy things without paying for them. Enormous harm can result from these state laws, she said, because undocumented workers who are convicted become felons who would be ineligible for the benefits of any comprehensive reform of federal immigration law, if passed.
On July 29, 2010, Unitarian Universalists stood with Puente in a mass act of civil disobedience to stop Sheriff Arpaio's neighborhood raids, Frederick-Gray noted. “Today, the workplace raids end! Through the fearless efforts of migrant workers themselves, another tool used to tear apart families and criminalize hardworking people has been halted. Today is a better day in Arizona,” she said.
Photograph (above): The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speak during a visit by religious leaders to the county’s “tent city” jail on June 24, 2012, as the Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, president of the UU Service Committee, looks on (© 2012 Dea Brayden/UUA).