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High court upholds Az employer sanction law

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Thursday an Arizona law that penalizes employers who hire illegal immigrants.

The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007, which revokes the business license of employers who repeatedly hire undocumented workers. It also requires employers in the state to use the federal E-Verify system to check the status of prospective employees.

The law was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, and the Obama administration.

It was signed into law by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, now the federal Secretary of Homeland Security.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the law "falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states," and that the law is not preempted by federal authority.

"Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law," Roberts wrote. "It relies solely on the federal government's own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government's own system for checking employee status."

Dissenting were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who said federal law prohibits states from imposing their own immigration regulations on employers. Justice Elena Kagan, who was the nation's solicitor general when the case was appealed in 2010, recused herself from the case.

"Permitting states to make use of E-Verify mandatory improperly puts states in the position of making decisions... that directly affect expenditure and depletion of federal resources," Sotomayor wrote.

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The law upsets a federal decision to balance discouraging employers from hiring undocumented workers and halting discrimination against those who may appear to be immigrants, Breyer wrote.

Employers "will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States" because they have an accent, he wrote in his dissent.

Although justices are nominally not political, the decision showed a party-line split. Those appointed by Republican presidents upheld the law, those voting to overturn it were appointed by Democrats.

The Arizona law allows the state to suspend the licenses of business that "intentionally or knowingly" violate requirements that they verify work eligibility for employees. It requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system, set up as a voluntary system, to check the documents of current workers and prospective hires.

Although a 1986 federal law limits the powers of states to regulate the employment of undocumented workers, there is an exception for "licensing and similar laws."

Thursday's decision was based on statutes and case law that do not necessarily apply to SB 1070. The decision does not signal how the court might rule on Arizona's law requiring law enforcement to check immigration status on those they stop.

Before making its way to the Supreme Court, the law was upheld by a federal judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Check back for updates.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

May 26, 2011, 12:59 pm
-0 +2

Re: Britannicus: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

May 26, 2011, 12:56 pm
-2 +0

This is the same story with illegal immigration and the failure to place, 5000 “boots on ground. “of the each border States Nation Guardsman permanently?  I was astounded to read a “Wikileaks” secret document, that the border is intentionally left open for the clandestine arrangement to merge Canada, Mexico and the United States. You have a chance to read these reports at Wikileaks website, under the headline, “Viewing cable 05OTTAWA268, PLACING A NEW NORTH AMERICAN INITIATIVE.” This is a serious situation concocted by the Canadian Paul CELLUCCI and American Ambassador, which seems to never have been observed by Congress.

From both parties are hundreds of thousands, tens of millions finding that the TEA PARTY, doesn’t discriminate against race or religion. That these people are delusion by the Liberals, democrats and Republicans, that are not doing enough to stop the in-sourcing of illegal immigrants or outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries. Cafta and Nafta was a massive mistake as the whole “FREE TRADE AGEEMENTS” have been detrimental to our society. We are importing everything from a nail file to steel, at far below the cost of doing business here? Once a lender of billions of dollars, we must now go cap in hand to Communist China, that owns our debts. We are the greatest market in the world, but our commerce is undercut by artificially engineering their currencies. The only winners in this commercial game are the importers of inferior products, who are profiting. 

As Billionaire Donald Trump we should place a 25 % import tax on everything coming to our country, and begin to rebuild our manufacturing industries again.  An intentional failure of every administration to secure our borders or enact laws that would obstruct foreign national at the border, or a tracking system to deport visa overstays. E-Verify will eradicate this problem of the issuance of a Secure Communities law, to enforce that every police department fingerprint and send those scans to ICE. If you want less government, a fair Tax system, individual responsibility and the return of federal excessive power to the states, join the Tea Party in your local area. Tell your Federal, State or local lawmaker, unless they join the TEA PARTY, they will be out of office in 2012.

Contact them at Senate—202-224–3121/ House—202-225–3121.

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May 26, 2011, 12:55 pm
-2 +0

Nothing will do more, including the fence, to retard future illegal immigration occupation and accelerate the departure of the current 20 million illegal populations than taking away the job magnet. This is a significant win as other States following Arizona’s lead, could have been crushed if the verdict had gone the alternative route. The American workers now have the impetus, to push the Congress and with the help of the monolithic Tea Party to mandate E-Verify nationwide.  This will mean the propagation of E-Verify, with audits on all manner of business, including contractors and sub-contractors in every occupation. American labor must unite to uncover unscrupulous companies from large to small, who are using discount services. More and more patriotic Citizens and residents are joining other “Whistle Blowers” in contacting ICE and local police, of illegal aliens working in construction, manufacturing and thousands of other industries.

Another issue that many states see as a major peril to our sovereignty rights is illegal aliens using the absentee ballot system to vote in elections. New York, Colorado, New Jersey, Texas are being investigated by state Attorney General commissions. Acorn is still a major player and although dissolved on paper, is still involved in the registration racket. There are occurrences in California and Nevada of manipulation of voter rolls.

Can any American citizen or green card holder imagine what this country was like thirty years ago, before the illegal immigrant invasion? How many hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even a Trillion in three decades? Fewer illegal aliens meant fewer taxes to support the huge support mechanism that we have today? An example would be California, was a less congested place, where there was room to breathe? Just think were those taxes to subsidize illegal immigrants today could be highly beneficial, if it was spent on our own population. Education, for instance is forced on us, by a federal court that we must pay the schooling for every child of illegal immigrants. Then we have health care that the courts say, that anybody who breaks the law to come here is entitled to treatment. Remember in1912 the Titanic sunk, but not because of the iceberg above the Atlantic Ocean, but what was ominously concealed beneath the surface?

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