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A federal judge tossed out a southwest Idaho county’s lawsuit against local employers accused of hiring illegal immigrants — an attempt to recoup money the county says it has spent on the workers. The judge said Wednesday that Canyon County’s claimed higher expenses for social services such as indigent medical care, schools and jails were simply the costs of being a government entity. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled. The lawsuit marked the first time a government tried to use the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, to demand damages from businesses for the costs of allegedly illegal employees. The county filed the lawsuit in July against four businesses: Syngenta Seeds, Sorrento Lactalis, Swift Beef and Harris Moran Seed, as well as against the former director of the nonprofit Idaho Migrant Council. The four companies, which together employ hundreds of people in Canyon County, were accused of knowingly hiring hundreds of illegal immigrants, partly through agreements with worker recruiting companies. In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said the county’s contention that the hiring of illegal aliens posed a “public nuisance” was not grounded in state law. In addition, as a plaintiff in the RICO action, the county was not acting in a governmental capacity but as a private party to a civil lawsuit, Lodge wrote. “Instead, by its own admission, it is asserting ‘claims for the costs of municipal services,’” Lodge wrote. “This type of ‘general injury’ to a county’s ‘ability to carry out its functions’ is not an injury to ‘business or property.’ Therefore, Canyon County does not have standing to bring this action.” David Chambers, the vice president and general counsel of Sorrento Lactalis, said the company was happy with the ruling. Like all the defendants, his company argued that Canyon County’s basic premise — that the companies conspired to hire illegal immigrants — was false. County commissioner and congressional candidate Robert Vasquez, a Republican, had championed the lawsuit as part of his battle against illegal immigration in Idaho. “I’ve often said, when you step into a court of law seeking justice, all you will find is the law,” Vasquez said following the ruling. Canyon County is largely agricultural and many of its Latino residents work in that industry. About 19 percent of the county’s 131,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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