Ninth Circuit Vacates Injunction Against Arizona’s Identity Theft in Employment Laws

On May 2, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a preliminary injunction granted by a federal district court holding that amendments to Arizona’s identity theft laws were probably preempted by federal immigration policy. Puente Arizona v. Arpaio (9th Cir. 2016). The preliminary injunction—now vacated—originally led Maricopa County’s famed Sheriff Joe Arpaio to disband his work-site identity-theft enforcement unit.

Between 2006 and 2008, Arizona had the highest per-capita identity theft rates in the country, and one-third of those involved employment-related fraud. Arizona passed two bills to address this. A.R.S. 13-2009, the aggravated identity theft statute, prohibits using the information of another person (real or fictitious) with the intent to obtain employment. A.R.S. 13-2008, the general identity theft statute, addresses actions committed with the intent to obtain or continue employment.

Puente Arizona filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of these amendments, arguing that the laws were preempted by federal immigration policy and the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Puente Arizona requested an injunction, which was granted, and the defendants in the case appealed the injunction. The Ninth Circuit has now vacated the injunction, noting that the amendments were not totally preempted and did not specifically target immigrants.

The court has remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona for further decision.