POLITICS

Appeals court OKs enforcement of Arizona's controversial ID laws

TUCSON, AZ - MAY 30:  Tucson Police Officer Angel Ramirez interviews teenage girls about their involvement in a fight May 30, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. Ramirez works in the city's predominately Hispanic south side. The Tucson Police Department is currently gearing up to begin training its officers on the implementation of the state?s controversial new immigration law SB 1070. Although a Tucson police officer was one of the first to file suit in federal court challenging the new law, many rank and file officers support the legislation while the Arizona Chiefs of Police have criticized it.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

TUCSON, AZ - MAY 30: Tucson Police Officer Angel Ramirez interviews teenage girls about their involvement in a fight May 30, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. Ramirez works in the city's predominately Hispanic south side. The Tucson Police Department is currently gearing up to begin training its officers on the implementation of the state?s controversial new immigration law SB 1070. Although a Tucson police officer was one of the first to file suit in federal court challenging the new law, many rank and file officers support the legislation while the Arizona Chiefs of Police have criticized it. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)  (2010 Getty Images)

Arguing that Arizona's controversial identity theft laws were used against U.S. citizens as well as immigrants who use false identities to get jobs, a federal appeals court on Monday ordered the ordinances to go back into effect.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out an order that stopped the state from enforcing the laws.

The ruling will not immediately go into effect while the plaintiffs consider an appeal to a larger 9th Circuit panel, said Jessica Vosburgh, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The laws are part of a package of measures approved in 2007 and 2008 that aimed to confront employers who hire immigrants who are in the country illegally. The package has been criticized as focusing too heavily on workers and too little on employers, leading to hundreds of criminal cases against immigrant workers while targeting only a handful of employers.

A lower-court judge had said immigrant-rights advocates were likely to succeed in claiming federal immigration law trumped the ID measures.

But the 9th Circuit said authorities also use the laws to go after citizens, not just immigrants, so federal immigration law is not always a factor. As a result, the three-judge panel said the laws cannot be blocked in their entirety.

"We cannot say that every application is unconstitutional," Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the court.

For example, the court said Arizona had prosecuted citizens who used someone else's identity to hide a criminal history from a potential employer.

Vosburgh said the plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging the laws will continue. "If you look at enforcement data, the vast majority of individual prosecutions are being brought against undocumented workers," she said.

Supporters of the ID theft laws say immigrants who steal identities to get jobs are committing a crime, and that victims could face difficulties such as getting loans.

Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of metro Phoenix known nationally for targeting illegal immigration and calling himself "America's Toughest Sheriff," has raided dozens of businesses and arrested more than 700 immigrants.

He said in a statement Monday that the identity theft laws should be enforced now but that he has not decided "when or if to resurrect" enforcement.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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