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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Arizona To Revoke Licenses Of Employers Who Hire Illegal Immigrants

The United States Supreme Court made headlines this week by upholding an Arizona statute that punishes employers who hire illegal immigrants by revoking their business licenses. The statute also requires Arizona employers to use E-Verify, an internet-based system employers can use to check the work authorization status of employees. In Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, No. 09-115 (May 26, 2011), the Court ruled that the statute was not preempted because it was a licensing law that was permitted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (which otherwise preempts state laws that impose civil or criminal sanctions on those who employ unauthorized aliens).

In the wake of the decision, commentators are wondering whether it foreshadows a favorable decision for supporters of the more recent Arizona statute that targets illegal immigrants themselves — SB 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, as amended by HB 2166. Jennifer Rubin gave both points of view about the implications in The Washington Post. The statutes are different. The Ninth Circuit, which upheld the law at issue in Whiting, has affirmed a preliminary injunction against important parts of SB 1070.

The decision has also brought some attention to the E-Verify program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a detailed explanation of the program on its website. Employers who participate in the program establish a rebuttable presumption that they have not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien.