The Supreme Court has upheld an Arizona law that punishes businesses for hiring undocumented immigrants. The 2007 law, called the Arizona Legal Workers Act, allows the state to suspend the licenses of businesses that “intentionally or knowingly” violate requirements to verify the legal eligibility of their workers. The Act requires businesses to confirm their workers documentation through a federal database called E-Verify, which is normally a voluntary resource.
The case turned on whether the state exceeded its power by stepping on the federal government’s authority to make immigration law. A 1986 federal act significantly limits the power of states to make their own policies regulating the employment of undocumented workers, though contains an exception for local licensing laws. The Supreme Court held that the 2007 law does not allow Arizona to exceed its authority because the statute “tracks (the federal law’s) provisions in all aspects.”
Commentators are currently debating whether this decision ought to be seen as suggestive of how the Court would rule on the challenge to Arizona’s SB1070 law, which gives police the authority to check a person’s immigration status whenever they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented. A federal judge overturned most provisions of the statute in August, and the case is currently pending in a federal appeals court.