Did SCOTUS Decision on Arizona Illegal Immigration Law Tip Their Hand on S.B. 1070?
OPINION: Did SCOTUS AZ Illegal Immigration Law Decision Tip Their Hand on S.B. 1070?
The Supreme Court this week upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 which allows Arizona courts to suspend or revoke the licenses necessary to do business in the state if an employer knowingly or intentionally employs an unauthorized alien. It also required employers in Arizona to use the federal “E-verify” system to check the eligibility of each potential employee.
The 5-3 decision by the high court bodes well for its inevitable future consideration of the controversial Arizona S.B. 1070: the law that allows Arizona police officers to request proof of residency from individuals that they have already detained for other reasons and whom they have reason to suspect may not be in the country illegally. Here’s why:
1. The Supreme Court, in this decision in general recognized that the states have a legitimate role in helping enforce immigrations policies to the extent that they affect the state itself as long as they do not engage in acts that have been preempted by federal legislation.
2. The Supreme Court did not defer to the current administration. Not surprisingly, President Obama’s administration opposed this law even though it was aimed not at the illegal aliens themselves but their potential employers, and even though the federal law itself had carved out an exception that said states could enforce their own licensing regulations to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority:
“It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions.”
3. Finally, the state rejected the argument that theoretically the law might cause discrimination, saying that current employment anti-discrimination laws were sufficient to deter that. It will be interesting to see if S.B. 1070’s explicit provision against profiling is sufficient in the Court’s eyes to provide similar protection.
The big difference between the Arizona law considered in this case and S.B. 1070 is that in this case the Arizona law was narrowly crafted to fit within federal statutory exception and they are in a much more ambiguous area of general police enforcement.
Yes, this decision bodes well for the supporters of S.B. 1070 when their case comes to the Big Court. They would have been dead in the water if they lost this case. But when S.B. 1070 finally gets to the Court of Last Resort it’s going to be a very tough, very close call.
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