SCOTUS Upholds One Arizona Immigration Law

Last week the Supreme Court handed down the first of two highly anticipated immigration decisions, upholding an Arizona law that penalizes employers that hire undocumented workers.

In a 5-3 decision (Justice Kagan recused herself), the conservative majority held that the Immigration Reform and Control Act did not override state or local laws that impose civil or criminal sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized immigrants.  Arizona law supplemented those penalties which much tougher ones and had been challenged by a myriad of groups as conflicting with federal immigration policy.

But Chief Justice Roberts disagreed, writing that the Immigration Reform and Control Act was broadly drafted to allow for such local modification, even though immigration control is squarely the province of the federal government.  The decision also upholds the Arizona law’s mandate that all employers use the federal E-Verify system, despite the fact that the program has proven itself error-prone.

In a separate dissent, Justice Sotomayor addressed the largest procedural reality that will come from the decision — the possibility of all states and localities implementing their own distinct methods of enforcing and adjudicating employers who have employed unauthorized immigrants.  Indeed, for employers who do business in multiple states, they now face a patchwork of immigration laws in the hiring process.

The decision has no impact on Arizona’s other controversial immigration law, SB 1070.  While it would be easy to cut and paste the conservative majority’s outcome and predict a win for Arizona there as well, such a move would be premature at best.  The laws deal with two entirely different aspects of immigration law — regulation of employment versus securing borders — and therefore require two entirely different analyses.  If anything the decision shows a willingness to give states a lot of room in crafting responses to the challenges of illegal immigration and if the idea of 50 different laws on the matter is troublesome, the best answer is to get Congress to act instead.


photo courtesy of Barnaby via Flickr


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you for article.

Faye S.
Faye S6 years ago

Jessica P...
Please find a new photo for the topics concerning ILLEGAL Immigration. These 'kids' now have grey hair and their lap-top or whatever it is, is obsolete.

Glad SCOTUS finally got something right.

Vince D.
Vince D6 years ago

Robert O,

I don't know your history, but am curious as to why you constantly claim that AZ 1070, or any other anti-illegal action, is racist. Please explain!

Illegal aliens and their employers come in all races. "Illegal alien" is not a race, but a person of ANY race who is in our country in violation of our laws. They come in all colors.

So please, explain your constant fears of racism. Thanks.

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

this is good when the federal government refuses to deal with a national problem the states must to protect their citizens. Congress only cares about the next election not doing their job. If I put off doing my work like they do I would be fired. Really do they ever stop to think that they are a psid employee and are expected to do what we pay them for?

Gene W.
Gene W6 years ago

@Robert O., look at a map, AZ has a border with Mexico should they not be able to guard it? Read the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution and you may note that the Fed gets its rights from the Constitution and the States and people get all that remain. Why is it racially profiling to request that a person carry some form of ID which shows right to be doing whatever you are doing. Bet you never were stopped for speeding and not asked for a DL.
@Patrick Dieter, do you ever wake up in the morning and think wow there is a real world out there and here I am dreaming. Try going across the southern border into Mexico and get a job, ask for medical help from a hospital without paying, buy a house without the governments o.k., ask for welfare or any other thing that is automatic in the USA. If you really feel that the people in the US use to much of the money and assets of the world, you are welcome to take your wife and six kids to Uganda, Darfur or any other third world country you please and see how that works out for you.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Well, I suppose upholding that law isn't so bad since employers really should not be hiring undocumented workers. However, I don't want that ruling to be seen by the racists as a victory and proof that Arizona's SB1070 (and other copycat laws) is just and should also be legalized, because it's not fair or just. It's an ignorant hate-based attempt to deal with a national problem by screaming about state's rights then creating a patchwork of state and local laws that are really nothing more than attempts to legalize racism. States have rights, but not in any way that usurp federal law. Most laws designed like SB1070 encourage racial profiling and could easily infringe upon the rights of native born Hispanics and Hispanic legalized citizens, based on how they appear to law enforcement. Immigration reform must be thorough, but it also must be efficient and compassionate and dealt with on the FEDERAL level since immigration has to do with the national borders.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

Many thanks to the Supreme Court ! You are not as bad as I thought you were.

Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

I have to agree with the decision. The employers have been the real problem all along. Some of them have even sent money across borders ordering up people like fries at a burger stand. I'm sure they think its really funny that we lay so much blame on the workers.