Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting (US 09-115 5/26/11) Arizona Law Sanctioning Employers for Hiring Undocumented Immigrants
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it “unlawful for a person or other entity . . . to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” 8 U. S. C. §1324a(a)(1)(A). Employers that violate that prohibition may be subjected to federal civil and criminal sanctions. IRCA also restricts the ability of States to combat employment of unauthorized workers; the Act expressly preempts “any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens.” §1324a(h)(2). IRCA also requires employers to take steps to verify an employee’s eligibility for employment. In an attempt to improve that verification process in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), Congress created E-Verify—an internet-based system employers can use to check the work authorization status of employees. Against this statutory background, several States have recently enacted laws attempting to impose sanctions for the employment of unauthorized aliens through, among other things, “licensing and similar laws.” Arizona is one of them. The Legal Arizona Workers Act provides that the licenses of state employers that knowingly or intentionally employ unauthorized aliens may be, and in certain circumstances must be, suspended or revoked. That law also requires that all Arizona employers use E-Verify. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States and various business and civil rights organizations (collectively Chamber) filed this federal preenforcement suit against those charged with administering the Arizona law, arguing that the state law’s license suspension and revocation provisions were both expressly and impliedly preempted by federal immigration law, and that the mandatory use of E-Verify was impliedly preempted. The District Court found that the plain language of IRCA’s preemption clause did not invalidate the Arizona law because the law did no more than impose licensing conditions on businesses operating within the State. Nor was the state law preempted with respect to E-Verify, the court concluded, because although Congress had made the program voluntary at the national level, it had expressed no intent to prevent States from mandating participation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Held: The judgment is affirmed.
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