PHOENIX, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A federal judge has temporarily barred Sheriff Joe Arpaio from enforcing an Arizona law that allowed him to arrest hundreds of undocumented immigrants.
U.S. District Judge David Campbell's preliminary injunction, issued Monday, was aimed at both the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Campbell said it will stand until he rules on whether the Arizona law is constitutional.
Under the Arizona law, undocumented immigrants can be charged with felony identity theft if they use fake documents to get work, even if those documents do not use real IDs and Social Security numbers. In the past six years, Arpaio has arrested more than 700 people in about 80 raids on workplaces.
Opponents of the law say it is preempted by federal legislation on identity theft and laws requiring employers to verify that new hires are citizens or legal residents.
Jack MacIntyre, a deputy chief sheriff, predicted Campbell's injunction would encourage more people to enter the United States illegally. He called it "a little bit of an exercise in futility if you eliminate and declare a state law unconstitutional because of federal preemption with a wink and a nod to the reality that the federal government shows no interest in enforcing that area of immigration law."
Arpaio announced last month that he would disband the unit that has been conducting the raids by the end of January or early February.
Campbell said that the announcement does not affect the lawsuit because Montgomery and other county agencies could pick up where Arpaio left off.
Noemi Romero, who was arrested in a 2012 raid, was one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.
Most of those arrested eventually agreed to plead guilty after being held for weeks under another Arizona law, also found unconstitutional by the courts, that denied bail to anyone in the country illegally. Typically, those who entered guilty pleas were then turned over to federal immigration agencies and deported with little chance of being able to return legally because of their criminal records.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network is one of the groups involved in the litigation.
"We are thrilled that the ruling recognizes that the Maricopa County sheriff and Maricopa County attorney are not above the law," said Jessica Bansal, the network's litigation director. "And we are very happy that the court has recognized the harm the raids were causing to the migrant community and offers them some protection."