by Jack Minor
While the executive branch has opposed efforts in Arizona to combat illegal immigration, the state received support from the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld a law requiring businesses in the state to use a federal database to verify employment.
Before SB 1070 was condemned by the Obama administration and Mexican government, Arizona passed a law; the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act . The law required all employers to use e-verify, a federal database used to verify employment. The law also threatened to revoke the license of any business in the state that knowingly hired illegal aliens.
The Chamber of Commerce and civil rights groups sued, stating it would result in discriminating against workers and that existing federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act did not authorize states to force employers to use e-verify.
IRCA makes it “unlawful for a person or other entity … to hire, or to recruit or refer, for a fee, for employment in the United States, an alien, knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” The law also requires employers to take steps to verify an employee’s eligibility for employment.
Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, said that while IRCA forbad states from imposing civil or criminal penalties on employers, nothing in the law prevents states from passing regulations pertaining to licensing requirements.
Roberts also stated that the Chamber of Commerce’s argument that the Arizona law is not a licensing law because it it serves only to suspend and revoke, not to issue is, “without basis in law, fact or logic.”
Roberts went on to say, “Arizona’s procedures simply implement the sanctions that Congress expressly allowed the States to pursue through licensing laws.” Moreover, employers enjoy a safe harbor provision when using e-verify and therefore, “The most rational path for employers is to obey both the law barring the employment of unauthorized aliens and the law prohibiting discrimination.”
Supporters of Arizona’s SB 1070, which simply permitted police to inquire about a person’s immigration status when they have lawful contact with an individual, say this decision vindicates the bill. In supporting the Legal Arizona Work act the court ruled that the bill was valid as it simply mirrored existing federal law.
Supporters of SB 1070 state that it does the exact same thing as the Legal Arizona Work law. Following Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 several states, including Colorado, have considered adopting similar proposals. Earlier this year a judge struck down key provisions of the law. The decision is currently on appeal.
Following the ruling, Sonora News reported a statement issued by Arizona Speaker of the House, Andy Tobin. “To our critics who say Arizona has no role in immigration issues, the Supreme Court has said otherwise. The Obama Administration was one of those critics and after four years of lawsuits and scare tactics, I’m glad to see we finally came out on top on this one. We’re grateful we can now give Arizonans confidence that we are continuing to implement the rule of law given that President Obama is more interested in mocking those of us who want our border secure than protecting American citizens.”
Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo echoed Tobin’s sentiment, saying the reasoning behind the decision “is a clear signal that Arizona’s 2010 law, SB 1070, is also going to be upheld when it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.”
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