Illegal immigration lawsuit
Press Conference: Wednesday, November 22, 2006, 11 AM. Location: Senate Lawn, 1700 W. Washington Phoenix 85007.
Contacts: Roberto Reveles (We Are America Coalition/Arizona); Marianne Gunko (Friendly House); Peter Schey, Esq. (Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and counsel in the lawsuit); Ray Velarde, Esq. (LULAC).
A coalition of organizations in Maricopa County, joined by several State Representatives and other Arizona taxpayers, and a group of immigrants facing felony charges for “conspiring” to have themselves transported through Maricopa County, today announced the filing of a federal class action lawsuit challenge to the controversial migrant conspiracy policy.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include We Are America/Somos America Coalition of Arizona, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, League of United Latin American Citizens, Friendly House, Arizona State Representatives Kyrsten Sinema, Steve Gallardo, and Steve Lujan, Arizona State University Associate Professors Cecilia Menjivar and LaDawn Haglund, and six immigrants charged with felony conspiracy under the Maricopa County policy.
The lawsuit is brought as a class action on behalf of “all individuals stopped, detained, arrested, incarcerated, prosecuted, or penalized for conspiring to transport themselves” in Maricopa County.
Maricopa County is the only local government in the United States to initiate a program to charge all suspected undocumented migrants being transported through the county with felony crimes. To date, over 300 immigrants have been arrested, jailed, and charged under the policy. According to the lawsuit, most plead guilty in order to avoid lengthy stays in Maricopa‚s notoriously harsh jails.
In March 2006 Maricopa County started to arrest large numbers of suspected undocumented immigrants and charging them with conspiracy to transport themselves with the aid of a smuggler. County officials base their policy on a State anti-coyote law passed in 2005 that makes it a crime to smuggle undocumented immigrants for gain in Arizona. However, legislators who proposed and supported the state law, have publicly criticized the Maricopa County policy saying they never intended it to be used against migrants being smuggled.
Roberto Reveles, Executive Director of the We Are America Coalition of Arizona, issued the following statement: “The legality of the Maricopa County conspiracy policy should be ruled upon by the federal courts before more lives are destroyed, people needlessly jailed for months at a time, and tax-payers billed for a program that may be unconstitutional and has no measurable impact on the immigration crisis.”
Rosa Rosales, National President of LULAC, issued the following statement: “As the oldest and largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the country, we are appalled at the short-term political gains certain Maricopa County officials have sought to make by charging immigrants with serious felonies. The vast majority of these immigrants come to the United States to satisfy the demand for labor here and to join their families. They are hard working and in no way a threat to national security. Treating them like serious criminals is not only irrational, it is shameful and disgraceful.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (Los Angeles), Perkins Coie Brown & Bain P.A (Phoenix), Ray Velarde, LULAC National Legal Advisor, Dan Ballecer (Phoenix), and Antonio Bustamante (Phoenix).