Supreme Court Upholds “Legal Arizona Workers Act” (Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting)
This case has been closely watched by those involved on both sides of the illegal immigration debate. It involves an Arizona law known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act that requires employers to use E-Verify to ascertain the legal status of prospective employees and provides for sanctions, including revocation of state business licenses, for those who do not, and who intentionally hire illegal aliens. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce was joined by multiple civil liberties organizations in challenging the law.
Many believe this case serves as a precursor to the Supreme Court’s expected review of the litigation surrounding Arizona’s “Papers Please” law. However, the cases will come to the court on different footing. The Legal Workers Act was upheld by both the trial court and court of appeals. The Papers Please law has been invalidated in several respects by the lower courts. There are both similarities and differences. Both cases are based on federal preemption issue. The Chamber of Commerce case is primarily one of statutory interpretation.
The decision is 5-3. Kagan recused herself because she was Solicitor General as the case was coming through the system. The split was the five conservatives, with Chief Justice Roberts writing the main opinion. Breyer and Sotomayor wrote separate dissents, with Ginsburg joining Breyer’s dissent.
The Supreme Court held that the Legal Arizona Workers Law was not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA], a federal statute. The Court found that licensing businesses is a state function that was not usurped by the IRCA.