The United States Supreme Court this morning upheld the Arizona statute aimed at businesses that employ illegal immigrants. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 5-3 majority, stated: "Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law ... 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." Roberts also wrote: "Arizona went the extra mile in ensuring that its law tracks (the federal law's) provisions in all material aspects."
The law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, was adopted in 2007 and permits the state to suspend the licenses of businesses that "intentionally or knowingly" violate work-eligibility verification requirements. The law also could require businesses to use E-Verify-a federal database intended to confirm the employment eligibility of prospective employees.
The suit, originally brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, alleged that federal law prohibits Arizona and other states from mandating the use of E-Verify. Arizona argued it has extensive authority governing businesses inside the state.
The law was opposed by the Obama administration and numerous businesses and immigrant/civil rights groups.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing the dissent, stated that E-Verify is not a mandatory program and that the belief that the federal government is failing to enforce immigration laws is not relevant. "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," she wrote.
Justice Elena Kagan was the administration's solicitor general when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court and did not participate.
It is likely this decision will embolden other states to take their own steps to address the employment of illegal aliens and/or undocumented workers.