Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants
(Washington Post) -- by Robert Barnes --
Arizona, the state at the forefront of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ undocumented workers, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In a 5 to 3 vote, the court rejected arguments that control over illegal immigration is solely a federal responsibility and endorsed narrowly drawn state efforts to regulate the employment of those in the country illegally. Eight other states — Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — have passed similar laws that would punish companies for hiring undocumented workers...
The law at issue in Thursday’s decision is the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which calls for revocation of a company’s business license if it has twice been found to knowingly or intentionally employ illegal workers.
The law requires companies to use a federal online program known as E-Verify — which challengers said was unreliable — to determine whether an employee is authorized to work.
The law was passed in 2007 and signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), now President Obama’s secretary of homeland security.
It was opposed by an unusual coalition: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration. Business groups criticize the patchwork of state and local efforts regulating employers, while civil-liberties groups worry about discrimination and racial profiling.
The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act preempts “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions” on employers who hire unauthorized immigrants. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to impose its own penalties.
A majority of the court agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
“It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” Roberts wrote in the opinion...MORE...LINK