Test-case busts in Arizona anti-immigrant measure

On June 10, sheriff’s deputies in Maricopa County, Ariz., raided two water parks in the Phoenix area and arrested nine workers on charges of suspicion of identity theft and using forged documents to obtain employment. The raid followed a four-month investigation of hiring practices at the sites. The operation is being seen as a test case for a law that went into effect in Arizona in January 2008 which allows the state to suspend or revoke business licenses of employers who “knowingly” hire unauthorized workers.

Authorities also used search warrants to seize personnel records, which they will use to investigate whether a violation of the state employer sanctions law occurred, said Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is known nationally for his aggressive targeting of immigrants.

The raids took place at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa and Waterworld Safari in Phoenix, both of which are owned by Phoenix-based Golfland Entertainment Centers; the company operates three parks in Arizona and six in California. A former employee at Waterworld Safari provided the tip that led to the investigation, said Arpaio. According to Arpaio, investigators believe as many as 104 additional employees at the parks might have used fraudulent documents or Social Security numbers to get their jobs.

Dave Johnson, director of marketing for the parks, said that since January Golfland executives have used a federal database to check the immigration status of newly hired workers as required by the state law. “Those who could not be confirmed as legal, they were terminated,” Johnson said. Golfland Sunsplash, Waterworld Safari and a third water park in the area employ a total of 1,100 people, Johnson said. (New York Times, June 12)

From Immigration News Briefs, June 22

See our last post on the politics of immigration.