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Arizona Mom Who Works With Refugee Kids Fights Due-Process Denial That Would Place Her On No-Hire List

Boys playing on a swingset at a park.
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An Arizona mother who works with refugee families is fighting a state agency’s decision to place her on a child neglect no-hire list. Represented by attorneys from Pacific Legal Foundation and the Goldwater Institute, she is asking a state court to give her due process before allowing the agency to blacklist her.

According to the stay motion, while Sarra L. was Thanksgiving shopping in 2020, she let her 7-year-old son and his 5-year-old friend play at a park. She knew the park was safe, and a friend of hers was there. While Sarra was in the store, the friend called and said a police officer was talking with the children.

The officer’s charges against Sarra — two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor — were ultimately dropped by prosecutors, the motion said, but the Arizona Department of Child Safety investigated the matter and “concluded there was probable cause that Sarra neglected her son.” DCS recommended putting Sarra’s name in the Central Registry.

The Central Registry is essentially a “no-hire list,” Adi Dynar, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation and the lead attorney for Sarra’s case, told The Federalist. “If someone’s name is on the list, no employer can hire them if, as part of their employment, they have to work with children.”

He said this would threaten Sarra’s job, where she works with refugee families from Eastern Europe, including those affected by the Russia-Ukraine war. “She’s working with them, getting them situated, getting them the services they need to rebuild their lives and flourish in America,” Dynar said.

“If her name appears in the list, then her job is in jeopardy, she can’t work with refugees, and ultimately we are all impoverished as a result,” he added.

Before she could take the case to court, Dynar said Sarra appealed the DCS decision to an administrative law judge and then to the DCS director, a process he said has inherent constitutional problems. “There is no jury trial,” Dynar said. “There is no cross-examination of witnesses. They do not follow any rules of evidence or any specific rules of procedure that we have come to recognize as necessary for complying with the due process clause.”

“To add insult to injury,” he continued, “the standard of proof that is used in these cases is probable cause.” Probable cause, according to the stay motion, is “equivalent to a form of substantiated suspicion.” Dynar said the process also violates the separation of powers in Arizona’s Constitution, as executive officials exercise judicial power.

Sarra’s team filed the stay motion on July 15, asking that the court order DCS not to place her name on the registry — or to remove it if the agency already has — until the case is resolved.

If Sarra wins, this could affect more than just her case. Her attorneys argue the administrative hearing process itself violates the separation of powers as well as Sarra’s constitutional rights. “If we win that argument in the Court of Appeals in Arizona, we would be able to establish favorable precedent, at least in the state, that is critical of administrative adjudication,” Dynar said.

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