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U.S. Supreme Court upholds state employment immigration law

The United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling Thursday in a challenge to a law penalizing businesses that hire undocumented workers. Miami employment immigration attorneys have been watching the litigation challenging an Arizona immigration law that threatens state business licenses for companies that hire undocumented workers.

The high court, in a five-to-three ruling, upheld the Arizona law against a challenge that had claimed the state law was pre-empted under federal immigration law. The majority of the court ruled Thursday the state law "falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states." Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion.

The law upholds the states' right to impose sanctions against business, including stripping a company of its license to do business in that state, for hiring an undocumented worker. Three justices dissented from the ruling, saying federal immigration law preempts the state's authority to enact its own law. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself as she played a role in the litigation prior to her appointment to the bench.

The ruling also upholds the Arizona requirement that employers within that state participate in the federal E-Verify system, which is designed to allow companies to verify a worker's employment eligibility under immigration law.

Participation in E-Verify remains voluntary for private businesses in Florida as the legislature did not come to any agreement during the most recent session. As this blog has reported, Governor Scott requires state employers to use E-Verify to verify employment eligibility.

Thursday's ruling does not address a separate Arizona law that is under challenge. A federal appeals court recently held that an Arizona law requiring local police officers to check immigration status of detainees during a police investigation did not pass constitutional muster. Arizona is expected to appeal the appellate ruling to the Supreme Court.

Source: Bloomberg, "Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Illegal-Hiring Law," Greg Stohr 26 May 2011

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