Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Employment Eligibility Checks

The decision in the Arizona case could lead to more state-level anti-immigration laws

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The United States Supreme Court voted today to uphold a controversial Arizona law that punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. In a 5-3 vote split on ideological lines, the decision maintains an Arizona requirement for businesses to use a federal verification system to check job candidates' immigration status. The law in question is separate fron the more recent and deeply controversial Arizona law championed by current Governor Jan Brewer which requires police to ask anyone they stop about their immigration status if they have a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally. That law has been been put on hold while legal challenges work their way through the courts. Brewer is lobbying to skip the Ninth Circuit Court and bring the case before the Supreme Court. A loss there would be a tremendous blow to immigrants rights groups, who so far have garnered the support of everyone from the Phoenix Suns to Shakira in opposing the law.

In today's case, Chief Justice Roberts' 27-page opinion for the court's conservative majority states "that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law" as argued by parties' opposing the law. The liberal justices--Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer--represented the interests of a coalition of organizations that included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil and workers rights groups as well as the Obama administration. Those opposing the Arizona law argue that the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 forbids states from enacting any laws that prevent businesses from hiring illegal immigrants.

In his dissenting opinion Justice Breyer wrote that the law will impose "burdens on lawful employment" and further could result in "unlawful discrimination." The law upheld, the Legal Arizona Workers Act was originally signed by then-Governor Janet Napolitano in 2007

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