Arizona won a key victory in its fight to enforce illegal immigration, as the Supreme Court ruled to uphold a 2007 law dubbed the “business death penalty.” The law will allow state authorities to revoke business licenses from companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers, on the company’s second offense. A first offense means a suspension of 10 days or more. The law also requires businesses to vet prospective hires using E-Verify, a government program that checks workers’ legal status to ensure they are eligible for employment in the United States. The ruling sets a precedent for other states looking for ways to crack down. [Read Obama's four ways forward on immigration reform.]
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, business owners, and civil-rights groups—as well as the Obama administration—all opposed this law on the grounds that it puts a burden on employers, could cause workplace discrimination, and infringes on the federal government’s immigration enforcement. The state argued that regulating business licenses is within its jurisdiction.
“Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the court’s majority opinion. “It uses the Federal Government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien’ … and it requires Arizona employers to use the Federal Government’s own system for checking employee status.” [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on immigration reform.]
In one of the dissenting opinions, Justice Stephen Breyer writes that federal law pre-empts any state effort at imposing sanctions on employers hiring illegal immigrants, and he also believes the law will have a negative effect. “Either directly or through the uncertainty that it creates,” he writes, “the Arizona statute will impose additional burdens upon lawful employers and consequently lead those employers to erect ever stronger safeguards against the hiring of unauthorized aliens—without counterbalancing protection against unlawful discrimination.”
This is only one of many such fights to come, as Arizona’s controversial immigration laws from 2010 are still winding their way up through the justice system. [Read Obama's four roadblocks to immigration reform.]
What do you think? Was the Supreme Court right to OK Arizona’s “business death penalty” immigration law? Take the poll and post your thoughts below.
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