PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio told a federal court he will disband his group whose workplace immigration raids are at the heart of a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The Maricopa County sheriff said in a court filing that his Criminal Employment Unit would end its work "after the current identity theft investigation concludes in the end of January or early February of 2015."
The unit has conducted immigration investigations and raids for about 6 years, taking its authority from two felony identity-theft laws passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2007 and 2008.
Called the "Legal Arizona Workers Act," the laws created a new offense of aggravated identity theft for those using false information or the information of another person to gain employment.
Human rights group Puente Arizona and others sued Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery in June, claiming the unit was using the laws to unconstitutionally arrest undocumented workers.
While Puente Arizona's motion for an injunction against the laws remains pending, the defense acknowledged that President Obama's November executive action on immigration had changed the legal landscape.
The Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA) "will allow the Doe declarants to work under their own names, thus avoiding their claimed need to use someone else's identity and dispelling any alleged need for anonymity here," according tto a joint memorandum filed by the defendants in the case late Wednesday.
"The IAEA offers legal reprieve to undocumented parents of United States citizens and permanent residents who have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years," the filing states.
"Undocumented persons who meet the five-year requirement are not subject to deportation due to their undocumented status and are eligible for work permits."
However, Arpaio and Montgomery also claimed that the plaintiffs have no standing in the case because they no longer face prosecution under the challenged laws.
"Plaintiffs have not made a clear showing of their injury in fact," the memorandum states. "Plaintiffs' Doe declarations are insufficient to support standing because plaintiffs' alleged future injuries - the accompanying criminal and immigration consequences of a conviction under A.R.S. § 13-2008(a) or A.R.S. § 13-2009(a)(3) - are conjectural and hypothetical. Plaintiffs do not face criminal sanctions as a result of MCSO enforcement under A.R.S. § 13-2008(a) or A.R.S. § 13-2009(a)(3) because MCSO no longer enforces the employment provisions of those statutes."
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