Political Buzz May 26, 2011: Supreme Court Rules 5-3 to Uphold Arizona Immigration Law — US Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

John Roberts is pictured. | AP Photo

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts: The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ 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…

  • Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, rejecting a challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations, our court correspondent Joan Biskupic reports.
    U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement supporting the ruling: “Not only is this law constitutional, it is common sense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.”
    The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate because she worked on it while serving as President Obama’s solicitor general.
    The law permits the state to take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers. It requires employers to use an otherwise optional federal verification program, known as the E-Verify system, which collects data on workers from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
    The ruling, by a 5-3 vote, comes off oral arguments presented in December. Reporting on those arguments, Biskupic had noted that the court “appeared poised … to uphold” the law.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration had opposed the law…. – USA Today, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court today backed an Arizona law that sanctions businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    On a 5-3 vote, the court held that federal immigration law does not preempt Arizona from suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that violate state immigration law.
    Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 27-page opinion, which can be found here. And here’s a report from WSJ.
    Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Arizona law in 2007, saying that while immigration is a federal responsibility, Arizona had been forced to deal with the issue because the demand for cheap, undocumented labor in the state was contributing to illegal immigration…. – WSJ, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court sustains Arizona employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.
    By a 5-3 vote, the court said Thursday that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.
    The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general
    Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.
    Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.
    The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.
    The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.
    The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” unauthorized aliens…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Arizona may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, rejecting arguments that the state’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to control immigration.
    The court ruled 5 to 3 that Congress specifically allowed states such an option, and dismissed the objections of an unusual coalition that challenged the state law: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration.
    The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act generally preempts states from using employer sanctions to control immigration. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to go after companies that knowingly and intentionally hired undocumented workers.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
    “It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” he wrote.
    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome.
    The law at issue — the Legal Arizona Workers Act — is different from a more recent Arizona law that the Obama administration is battling in lower courts…. – WaPo, 5-26-11
  • SCOTUS upholds Arizona immigrant hiring law: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    In a 5-3 vote, the court concluded that federal immigration law doesn’t prevent the state from revoking the business licenses of companies that violate state law.
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the court had come to its decision because “the state’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”
    The Arizona law also requires employers to use the federal government’s web-based E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work within the United States. The court upheld this provision, saying it is “entirely consistent” with federal law…. – Politico, 5-26-11
  • US states can shut firms with illegals: Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state has the right to revoke the license of a business that knowingly employs illegal immigrants, in a case watched for implications on related judicial battles.
    The top US court in a 5-3 decision upheld Arizona’s 2007 law, saying the state was within its rights under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure.
    The ruling comes amid a legal battle on another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.
    In Thursday’s decision, the court cited the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.
    The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
    “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ 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.”… – AFP, 5-26-11
  • ‘Business death penalty’ for hiring illegal workers is upheld by Supreme Court: The 5-3 decision gives states more authority to act against illegal immigrants. Justices rule that states can take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Arizona and other states more authority to take action against illegal immigrants and the companies that hire them, ruling that employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can lose their license to do business.
    The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
    The court’s decision did not deal with the more controversial Arizona law passed last year that gave police more authority to stop and question those who are suspected of being in the state illegally. But the ruling is likely to encourage the state and its supporters because the court majority said states remained free to take action involving immigrants…. – LAT, 5-26-11
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