The Justice Department has brought yet another legal challenge against Arizona, accusing the Maricopa County Community College District in Phoenix of illegally asking foreign nationals to show their Permanent Resident Cards, or “green cards,” before being offered jobs in the 10-college system.
The lawsuit alleges that the school district engaged in a “pattern or practice of discrimination by imposing unnecessary and discriminatory hurdles to employment for work authorized non-citizens,” and seeks a penalty of $1,100 for each of 247 non-U.S. citizens identified during a yearlong investigation.
The Aug. 30 lawsuit, first reported by the Arizona Republic, said the school district required noncitizen job applicants to present additional work authorization documents beyond those required by law, but did not require U.S. citizens to do the same.
Tom Gariepy, spokesman for the community colleges, said the district would have no comment on the lawsuit.
The Justice Department said Maricopa Community Colleges “imposed different and greater documentary requirements on the 247 non-U.S. citizens identified in the probe, and did not end this practice until January 2010, well after the Justice Department initiated its investigation.”
The lawsuit said Zainul Singaporewalla, in applying for a job with the school system, completed a Homeland Security Employment Eligibility Verification Form and produced a driver’s license and Social Security card saying he was a lawful permanent resident. When he was unable to also produce a green card, he was not hired. The lawsuit described that as discrimination.
Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, accusing him, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the county of refusing to fully cooperate in a federal investigation into allegations that he and his deputies are guilty of racial discrimination.
That lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, accused the sheriff of failing to turn over documents sought since March 2009 that federal prosecutors say comply with its probe of alleged discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and English-only policies in his jails that discriminate against those with limited English skills.
Sheriff Arpaio described the lawsuit as “harassment,” saying its filing makes it “abundantly clear that Arizona, including this sheriff, is Washington’s new whipping boy. Now it’s time to take the gloves off,” he said.
Known as America’s Toughest Sheriff, Sheriff Arpaio already is the focus of a grand jury investigation by the Justice Department into allegations that the sheriff’s office misappropriated federal funds and intimidated political opponents.
In July, the Justice Department brought a lawsuit to stop Arizona’s new immigration law, saying it violates the Constitution by trying to supersede federal law and by impairing illegal immigrants’ right to travel and conduct interstate commerce. The lawsuit argued that only the federal government can write immigration rules.
The department asked a court to block the law from taking effect July 29, and a federal judge blocked key parts of the new law a day before it was to take effect, setting up a protracted legal battle and ensuring the issue will continue to roil the country through November’s elections.
U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton, sitting in Phoenix, ruled that the law would overwhelm the federal government and could hurt legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. She blocked a part of Arizona’s law that would require police to check the immigration status of anyone they stopped whom they suspected of being in the country illegally, and a second provision that required legal immigrants to carry proof of residency.
Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vowed to file an expedited appeal and said she will “battle all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, for the right to protect the citizens of Arizona.”
Polls show a majority of Americans support Arizona’s actions, but a vocal minority, led by increasingly powerful Hispanic rights activists, has protested every step of the way.
The lawsuit against Maricopa Community Colleges was filed with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer within the Executive Office for Immigration Review, another component of the Justice Department.