Some states have pushed immigration bills recently that place a greater burden on employers to ensure they do not hire illegal immigrants. One of the most recent is the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which went into effect on January 1.

LAWA authorizes the investigation and prosecution of any employer who knowingly or intentionally hires an “unauthorized alien,” as that term is defined by federal law. Any employer found in violation is subject to temporary or permanent revocation of all business licenses and authorizations to do business in Arizona. LAWA also requires employers to use the federal government’s Web-based E-Verify program for I-9 employment authorization verification.

The constitutionality of this new law has been challenged in Arizona Contractors Ass’n v. Candelaria, and, on February 7, the US District Court for the District of Arizona issued an opinion upholding LAWA. Plaintiffs are expected to appeal and seek an expedited ruling from the Ninth Circuit. In the meantime, county lawyers responsible for LAWA enforcement say no enforcement proceedings will be brought before March 1.

Implementation of LAWA and the litigation surrounding it afford a preview of potential issues for employers in other states that have or are considering similar immigration laws. For more information on the Legal Arizona Workers Act, employer obligations under the Act, and litigation over this Act, please see our February 2008 Immigration Alert, December 2007 Immigration Alert and July 2007 Immigration Alert.