US Supreme Court Asked to Review Arizona E-Verify Law

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business, community-based, and civil rights organizations have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting a review of the Arizona E-Verify law, which requires all employers in the state to participate in E-Verify and imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers. The petition (Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. Candelaria, et al.) argues that the Arizona statute is preempted by federal law and undermines the “comprehensive scheme” that Congress created to regulate the employment of foreign workers.

By way of background, the Legal Arizona Workers Act was enacted in 2007 and signed by then-Governor Janet Napolitano in one of the first instances of state immigration regulation. As mentioned above, the Act prohibits the hiring of unauthorized workers and imposes sanctions on offending employers, including the revocation or suspension of the company’s license. In addition, the Act makes E-Verify mandatory for all Arizona employers and specifies that employers failing to participate may be denied economic development benefits and be forced to repay any benefits previously obtained from the state.

Shortly after the Act was passed, several groups challenged it as being preempted by federal law. The U.S. district court disagreed, holding that the Act constitutes a “licensing or similar law” and that its provisions are not expressly preempted. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision.

The US Chamber and other plaintiffs argue that this case involves a question of “exceptional national importance: whether state legislatures and municipal governments may override Congress’s judgment concerning United States immigration policy.” They argue that the Arizona law is not an isolated case, as state legislatures and governments across the country have been seeking to regulate the employment of foreign workers through a “cacophony” of state immigration laws. This is certainly supported by the facts – which show that in the first 3 months of 2009 alone, over 1,000 immigration-related bills and resolutions have been introduced.