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High court asked to toss out Az employer sanctions law

The Obama administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out Arizona's law that punishes businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

The Justice Department says the employer sanctions law is preempted by federal laws, and that lower court rulings in favor of the Arizona statute should be reversed.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act requires employers to verify the employment eligibility of workers via the federal E-Verify database.

Arizona's law's effect is to "disrupt a careful balance that Congress struck nearly 25 years ago between two interests of the highest importance: ensuring that employers do not undermine enforcement of immigration laws by hiring unauthorized workers, while also ensuring that employers not discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities legally in the country," according to a brief filed by the administration.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 precludes states from penalizing companies for hiring illegal immigrants. But the law allows states to have "licensing or similar laws."

"The Arizona statute is not at bottom a 'licensing or similar law,' " Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal wrote in the brief. "It is instead a statute that prohibits the hiring of unauthorized aliens and uses suspension and revocation of all state-issued licenses as its ultimate sanction."

The court requested the administration's view of the case, Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, in November.

The law has been challenged by a coalition of groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and others.

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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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