Wednesday, December 8, 2010
ACLU, MALDEF and NILC Charge Discriminatory Law is Unconstitutional
WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the first challenge to the recent wave of state and local anti-immigrant laws to reach the Supreme Court. The case, brought by a broad coalition of civil rights and business groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, MALDEF, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the United States Chamber of Commerce, challenges an Arizona law that imposes penalties on businesses that the state determines have employed workers not lawfully authorized to work in the U.S.
One of the strictest such state laws in the nation, the Arizona scheme imposes severe sanctions on employers who have hired unauthorized workers and improperly requires all employers in the state to participate in an employment verification database system, E-Verify, that is explicitly voluntary under federal law. The coalition’s lawsuit charges that the Arizona law conflicts with federal law and violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief supporting the coalition’s position.
Linton Joaquin, general counsel, National Immigration Law Center: “In enacting comprehensive regulation of immigrant employment in 1986, Congress expressly prohibited state laws such as the Legal Arizona Workers Act. Arguments presented today illustrated the dangers workers and employers face from such unjust and unconstitutional state efforts to create their own immigration regulations. We are hopeful that the Court will finally put this matter to rest and quell the rising tide of state-level anti-immigrant legislation, which would result in an untenable system of patchwork immigration policy.”
Omar C. Jadwat, staff attorney, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project: "Arizona’s employer sanctions law is an unwise, unfair and unconstitutional attempt to unilaterally override federal law that creates an unacceptable risk of discrimination against lawful workers. The Court should firmly reject the Arizona law.”
Cynthia Valenzuela Dixon, director of litigation, MALDEF: “We hope that after hearing oral argument today, the Supreme Court understands and agrees that Arizona’s unconstitutional law carries with it serious civil rights implications. Congress created E-Verify as a voluntary program for good reason. The government’s own studies show that E-Verify is riddled with problems, and that the error rates are significantly higher for naturalized citizens, foreign-born workers with employment authorization, and workers with non-English surnames. Allowing states and local jurisdictions to mandate what Congress made voluntary would blatantly disregard the civil rights protections that Congress purposely put into place.”
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs Valle del Sol, Chicanos por la Causa and Somos America include Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Daniel Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona; Jonathan Weissglass and Stephen Berzon of Altshuler Berzon LLP; Valenzuela Dixon of MALDEF; and Joaquin and Karen C. Tumlin of NILC.
More information about the case is available online at: