U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law Designed To Deter Undocumented Workers
May 27, 2011 By Staff
Today in Latin America
Top Story — The United States Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which penalizes companies that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. The ruling, which passed five to three, lends more momentum to Arizona’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the state in the face of what Governor Jan Brewer and others in the state government see as lax federal enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. Arizona’s law bars the intentional hiring of an undocumented immigrants and employers that violate the statute repeatedly could lose their license to conduct business.
While federal law prevents states from imposing civil and criminal penalties for immigration violations, Arizona’s license revocation statute doesn’t fall into the category, Roberts added.
Brewer, along with Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, declared Thursday’s ruling a big victory for the state. “In light of today’s decision, I am more adamant than ever that states do have a complimentary role in enforcing federal immigration laws, despite the Obama Administration’s opposition at every turn,” Brewer said in a statement. “I want to assure Arizonans, and all Americans, that the state of Arizona will not rest until the federal government secures our border and enforces federal immigration laws.”
Besides punishing employers who hire undocumented immigrants, the law also requires the use of the federal government’s E-Verify system, a computer database that matches the Social Security number and driver’s license information from an employment application with the same information stored in government records.
“The Supreme Court has essentially given its seal of approval to states making E-Verify mandatory for businesses in their jurisdiction,” said Mike Hethmon of the Immigration Reform law Center.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer disagreed with the ruling and claimed it will disrupt the balance of federal law. The law prevents employers from hiring undocumented workers, but it also discriminates against workers who speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants, he added.
Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said, according to The Daily Mail newspaper.
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Image: ADLavinsky @ Flickr.