Before the Obama administration sued Arizona over their 2010 immigration enforcement law, the Obama Justice Department also joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their suit against Arizona’s 2008 Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA). Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona, and against Obama, in the LAWA case. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky reports:
LAWA allows Arizona courts to suspend or revoke the licenses necessary to do business in the state of any employer who knowingly or intentionally employs an unauthorized alien. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with various civil rights organizations, sued Arizona claiming that IRCA expressly and impliedly preempts the Arizona law. The Chamber argued that because the law only suspends and revokes licenses rather than grant them, it is not really a licensing law. However, Chief Justice John Roberts dealt with this strained and dubious legal argument in short order, calling it “without basis in law, fact, or logic.”
In fact, Arizona’s definition of a business license “largely parrots the definition of ‘license’ that Congress codified in the Administrative Procedure Act.” Further, Arizona does not interfere with federal law by making its own determination of whether an alien is “unauthorized.” No independent determination can be made – the state courts must “consider only the federal government’s determination.” The state statute very carefully tracks the language of IRCA. Thus, the Court concluded that Arizona’s licensing law clearly falls with the plain text of the savings clause of IRCA and is not preempted by federal law.
The state law makes it mandatory for Arizona employers to use the E-Verify system. The Chamber claimed this requirement was also preempted by IRCA because Congress made use of the E-Verify system voluntary. The Chamber relied on a provision in IRCA that prohibits the Secretary of Homeland Security from requiring any employer (outside the federal government) from using E-Verify absent a prior violation of federal law. However, the Court disagreed with the preemption claim since there is no language in IRCA preventing state action.
In fact, the federal government had agreed there was no preemption in 2008 during the Bush administration when it pointed to Arizona’s E-Verify mandate as an example of a permissible use of the system – although that did not prevent the Obama Justice Department from taking the exact opposite (and losing) position in this case. The Court concluded that Arizona’s requirement in no way interferes with the E-Verify system. In fact, the federal government has consistently expanded and encouraged the use of E-Verify by all 50 states.