• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Arizona Wins Big in Supreme Court Immigration Ruling

    Arizona won a spectacular victory today in the Supreme Court in its ongoing efforts to do something about the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who reside in the state and cost Arizona taxpayers an estimated $1.3 billion a year. In its ruling against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration, the Court also disproved the breathless claims of liberals and the editorial pages of publications like the New York Times that the conservative justices on the Court are just the handmaidens of big business who always rule in favor of corporate America.

    The federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit an alien who is unauthorized to work in the United States. While IRCA imposed civil and criminal penalties on employers who violate this provision (when it is actually enforced by the Justice Department), it restricts the ability of states to implement similar penalties with one conspicuous exception. The federal law (8 U.S.C. §1324a(h)(2)) specifically allows states to impose sanctions on such employers “through licensing and similar laws.” That is exactly what Arizona did in 2007 when it passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA).

    LAWA allows Arizona courts to suspend or revoke the licenses necessary to do business in the state of any employer who knowingly or intentionally employs an unauthorized alien. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with various civil rights organizations, sued Arizona claiming that IRCA expressly and impliedly preempts the Arizona law. The Chamber argued that because the law only suspends and revokes licenses rather than grant them, it is not really a licensing law. However, Chief Justice John Roberts dealt with this strained and dubious legal argument in short order, calling it “without basis in law, fact, or logic.” In fact, Arizona’s definition of a business license “largely parrots the definition of ‘license’ that Congress codified in the Administrative Procedure Act.” Further, Arizona does not interfere with federal law by making its own determination of whether an alien is “unauthorized.” No independent determination can be made – the state courts must “consider only the federal government’s determination.” The state statute very carefully tracks the language of IRCA. Thus, the Court concluded that Arizona’s licensing law clearly falls with the plain text of the savings clause of IRCA and is not preempted by federal law.

    The Court also gave short shrift to the Chamber’s claim that employers will err on the side of discriminating against potential employees rather than risk the “business death penalty” of losing their license to do business because they have hired unauthorized workers.” As the Chief Justice pointed out, there is no sanction against employers for merely hiring unauthorized workers. The state law’s sanctions are only triggered if an employer hires such a worker intentionally, knowing that they are not authorized to be employed. An employer acting in good faith need not have any fear of being sanctioned, especially since they enjoy a safe harbor from liability if they use the federal E-Verify system to check on prospective employees.

    In fact, the federal E-Verify system was the second part of this lawsuit. The state law makes it mandatory for Arizona employers to use the E-Verify system. The Chamber claimed this requirement was also preempted by IRCA because Congress made use of the E-Verify system voluntary. The Chamber relied on a provision in IRCA that prohibits the Secretary of Homeland Security from requiring any employer (outside the federal government) from using E-Verify absent a prior violation of federal law. However, the Court disagreed with the preemption claim since there is no language in IRCA preventing state action.

    In fact, the federal government had agreed there was no preemption in 2008 during the Bush administration when it pointed to Arizona’s E-Verify mandate as an example of a permissible use of the system – although that did not prevent the Obama Justice Department from taking the exact opposite (and losing) position in this case. The Court concluded that Arizona’s requirement in no way interferes with the E-Verify system. In fact, the federal government has consistently expanded and encouraged the use of E-Verify by all 50 states.

    Given the lack of political will exhibited in Washington for many years to enforce the federal sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, the implementation by Arizona and other states of these types of substantive state licensing laws is a crucial development. One of the keys to solving the problem we are experiencing with huge numbers of illegal immigrants is making it difficult for them to work. Enforcement of these types of prohibitions is essential to encouraging self-deportation by individuals who are not entitled to be here

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to Arizona Wins Big in Supreme Court Immigration Ruling

    1. Edward says:

      Great for Arizona and it's citizens who it's trying to protect.

    2. Norma Christoff, Col says:

      I am glad some decision was made in this regard. I have almost all illegal neighbors at this time and they do not adhere to the laws of this state. Without jobs there will be no incentive to come to this country and a greater incentive to go back home!

    3. Paula, Ontario CA says:

      Bravo Arizona. I wish all other states especially CA can follow suit.

    4. Carol,AZ says:



    5. john pass christian, says:

      finally, a judge with balls enough to stand up to this adminstration and enforce the laws of the land and make a ruling the way it should be made. honestly ! ! !

    6. Diana Brown says:

      It is about time that someone stand with our state of Arizona!!!

    7. Pingback: Morning Bell: School Choice Is the New Normal | The Foundry

    8. Pingback: Arizona wins! | kenwestisright

    9. Clearhead, U.S.S.O. says:

      Praise The LORD !!!!!!!

    10. Steve C. says:

      Finally a judge that is right! It's about time this country starts upholding the laws that are already on the books. Next should be an end for federal funding of states and towns that allow illigal sancuary city's! Bravo! to the LAW! at last. I just hope other states finally realize that this illegal alien problem is taking their states to a level that will be hard to come back from. No free handouts anymore and no legal drivers licenses for ILEGAL's!! WTF is that? How can someone illegal get a legal drivers license for gods sake!

      The days of migrants coming to work in the orchards and fields are long gone and now they are taking jobs from Americans in every level. No wonder the unemployment rates are so high with the under the table illegal worker and sending the dollar back to be spent in Mexico. The Golden goose of welfare and food stamps and free health care and ssi and labor and industries should stop and is time for Americans to see the scope of the leaching from tax payers to send our dollars away with no input to America and just take and take!… Why not? it's free here, right?..Not anymore I say!! Time to get America back on it's feet and become the Country it once was!

      • eddyjames1952 says:

        Any Mayor or City councilman or woman who votes for a sanctuary city should immediately be removed from office and be put in jail for conspiracy to break the law. With out bail of course.Just until their trial and imprisonment.After prison how about deporting and striping them of their citizenship.Or we could strip them of their citizenship then deport them.

    11. June says:

      And now, if Chief Justice Roberts will only show the same kind of "chutzpa" when obama-soetoro's "eligibility case" finally gets to the Supreme Court, WE THE PEOPLE will have won the "major" part of this battle! Let's just hope that happens in the "very near" future!

    12. Pingback: School Choice Is the New Normal | The Conservative Papers

    13. Tom, Georgia says:

      Finally we have a judge who rules on the side of the law. Nobody is above the law in this country.

    14. Tom, Georgia says:

      Finally a judge that will enforce our existing laws. Nobody is above the law in our great nation, especially ILLEGAL ALIENS !!!!!!

    15. Pingback: Heritage Foundation: Why Arizona Won Big in the Supreme Court Immigration Ruling | Congress Arizona

    16. Darrell Vann says:

      It's about time ! This has already cost the good citizens of Arizona and the rest of us too much.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.