Saturday, November 7, 2009

U.S. Asked to Weigh In on Arizona Employer Sanctions Case in Supreme Court

Josh Gerstein of reports on how the Supreme Court "is forcing the Obama administration to wrestle with the limits of states’ authority to enforce immigration laws — and also is throwing an uncomfortable spotlight on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano."   On Monday, the Court  asked the the Solicitor General (former HLS dean Elena Kegan) to offer the views of the United States in a case challenging an Arizona law that requires employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees. As governor of Arizona, Napolitano signed the bill into law in 2007. "Napolitano has stated that she believes the law is constitutional, but business groups and immigration reform advocates generally in President Barack Obama’s camp are asking the Supreme Court to strike down the statute."

The case is U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria.  The issues in the case are

whether an Arizona statute that imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized aliens is invalid under a federal statute that expressly “preempt[s] any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens”;

whether the Arizona statute, which requires all employers to participate in a federal electronic employment verification system, is preempted by a federal law that specifically makes that system voluntary;

whether the Arizona statute is impliedly preempted because it undermines the “comprehensive scheme” that Congress created to regulate the employment of aliens.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama  administration finesses this matter.  State and local immigration ordinances have sprouted up across the country, often fomented by anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiment.  We are likely to see more legal challenges like Candalaria percolate in the courts in the near future.


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