Supreme Court Upholds AZ Law Punishing Businesses That Hire Illegal Aliens!

On May 26, the U.S. Supreme Court handed proponents of immigration enforcement a tremendous victory when the High Court upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s “Legal Arizona Workers Act,” legislation — crafted by Judicial Watch client Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce — to penalize Arizona businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens (Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Michael B. Whiting, et. al (No. 09-115)).

The decision also upholds the constitutionality of the provision of the law requiring all Arizona employers to use the federal “E-Verify” system to confirm the eligibility of potential employees.

To put this Supreme Court ruling into context: The High Court has once again validated the constitutional right of states to help enforce our nation’s immigration laws!

You may recall that on October 28, 2010, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of State Senate President Pearce with the United States Supreme Court. As you can see in the following excerpts from the majority opinion crafted by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court essentially echoed Judicial Watch’s principal arguments:


  • “We hold that Arizona’s licensing law falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the States and therefore is not expressly preempted.”
  • “Arizona’s procedures simply implement the sanctions that Congress expressly allowed Arizona to pursue through licensing laws. Given that Congress specifically preserved such authority for the States, it stands to reason that Congress did not intend to prevent the States from using appropriate tools to exercise that authority…And here Arizona went the extra mile in ensuring that its law closely tracks IRCA’s [The Immigration Reform and Control Act’s] provisions in all material respects.”
  • In response to the Chamber of Commerce’s bogus argument that the law will force businesses to engage in discriminatory hiring practices, Justice Roberts wrote: “All that is required to avoid sanctions under the Legal Arizona Workers Act is to refrain from knowingly or intentionally violating the employment law…The most rational path for employers is to obey the law–both the law barring the employment of and the law prohibiting discrimination–and there is no reason to suppose that Arizona employers will choose not to do so.”

    Regarding the mandated use of E-Verify, a “fast, free and simple” service offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish the eligibility of a job applicant, the High Court noted that the federal government has implemented a similar mandate for companies seeking to obtain a federal contract.

“Arizona’s use of E-Verify does not conflict with the federal scheme,” the Court concluded. The Court also rejected the Chamber’s claim that the Arizona law, and those like it, will overload the federal E-Verify system.

Obviously, this Supreme Court ruling is extremely significant in the debate over the ability of states to address the illegal immigration crisis – a point that I made clear in the statement I offered to the press following the court’s decision:

This Supreme Court decision is a tremendous victory for the rule of law. This decision will have an enormous impact on states across the country suffering from the scourge of rampant illegal immigration. State Senate President Pearce carefully crafted this legislation to be entirely consistent with federal law. And we are pleased the Supreme Court recognized once again the critical role states must play in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws. The Obama administration’s plan of lax illegal immigration enforcement, sanctuary policies and amnesty only serve to worsen the illegal immigration problem. It’s time to take the only approach that works: law enforcement.

Arizona State Senate President Pearce, meanwhile, addressed the impact the Legal Arizona Worker’s Act will have on illegal immigrant job-seekers:

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today upholding the Legal Arizona Workers Act. This legislation is based on a simple but powerful solution to the illegal immigration crisis: enforce the law. It would be ideal if the federal government would do its job and secure the border. However, in the absence of leadership in Washington, states like Arizona have a responsibility to protect their citizens and uphold the law. This decision ensures that scofflaw businesses that put profits over patriotism can and will be punished. At the same time it will encourage illegal aliens in search of employment in Arizona to look elsewhere.

In my statement, you’ll note I reference the “enormous impact” this decision will have on states across the country. The ruling gives a major “green light” to states across the country to enact similar measures aimed at cracking down on the illegal hiring of illegal immigrants. This same sentiment was expressed by press outlets nationwide, including The New York Times:

The decision by the Supreme Court this week upholding an Arizona law punishing employers for hiring illegal immigrants was an energy boost for state lawmakers across the country who have proposed bills this year to curb illegal immigration. As if they needed it.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state lawmakers set a new record in the first three months of the year, proposing 1,538 bills related to immigration, with 141 measures in 26 states passed into law. While some of those laws extended new opportunities to illegal immigrants, like permitting them to pay lower in-state tuition rates at public colleges, most of the laws imposed restrictions on them.

(By the way, Judicial Watch is a huge factor in the “in-state tuition” debate referenced by the Times. You may recall, just a few weeks ago, JW forced the County College of Morris in New Jersey to reverse its tuition policy benefitting illegal aliens.)

And, of course, let the debate begin as to what this ruling will mean for SB 1070, Arizona’s get-tough illegal immigration law if it ultimately reaches the Supreme Court. This decision gives me reason to hope that the Court will once again validate the important role states can play – and must play – in enforcing federal immigration laws, and upholds yet another law authored by Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce.

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