Supreme upholds hiring law; could that pave way for SB 1070?
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – The U.S. Supreme Court handed Arizona a huge legal victory on Thursday when justices ruled in favor of giving the state the power to shut down a business that knowingly hires illegal immigrants.
The highly anticipated decision comes four years after former Governor Janet Napolitano signed the Legal Arizona Workers Act into law in 2007. The Obama Administration challenged the law; Napolitano is now Secretary of Homeland Security.
In the 5-3 ruling, the majority Justices ruled the mandatory immigration check does not trample on federal authority. Justices John Roberts, Jr., Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas joined in the majority opinion. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor ruled against. Due to a conflict of interest, Justice Elena Kagan did not rule in the case because she worked as the Obama Administration's solicitor general.
Governor Brewer quickly claimed victory upon hearing the news. In a statement released to the media, she wrote, in part:
"In light of today's decision, I am more adamant than ever that states do have a complimentary role in enforcing federal immigration laws, despite the Obama Administration's opposition at every turn. I want to assure Arizonans, and all Americans, that the State of Arizona will not rest until the federal government secures our border and enforces federal immigration laws."
Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce echoed with this statement:
"Arizona was the first state in the country to enact legislation to prevent illegal aliens from working. Now, the highest court in the land has given its legal authority to this law. Arizonans should be proud."
The high court's ruling also upheld a state provision that requires employers to use E-Verify. It does for employers what ICE (Immigration & Customs enforcement) does for police. Congress first created the federal database so employers could voluntarily check the immigration status of all potential workers; Arizona made it mandatory.
9 On Your Side wanted to know if this decision could pave the way for SB 1070 to become law. Arizona's other controversial immigration law gives local police a greater role in arresting illegal immigrants who can not show proof of immigration status. However, key provisions of the law have been blocked by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Recently, Gov. Brewer said she didn't want to delay the case and wanted the same nine Justices to immediately rule on lifting U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's injunction that blocked certain parts of SB1070 from going into effect. Although Brewer was unavailable for an interview with KGUN9, her spokesman, Matt Benson, said this week's ruling makes the Governor hopeful about SB 1070.
"The two laws are different and we recognize there are key distinctions, but we also believe this ruling is important. It shows the court believes the states can play a role in immigration law and we think it really bodes well," Benson told KGUN9.
Nina Rabin, Director of the UA's Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program, said the two laws do not share the same powers when it comes to enforcing immigration.
"In the decision today, you have a program that the federal government has spelled out that the state is employing so the difference is that in SB 1070 they are not using that federal program," said Rabin. "They're going their own way about making those checks on immigration status without the guidance that the federal government has already provided."
Rabin said unlike the hiring law, SB1070 goes beyond what the state powers encompass.
"In employment, states traditionally do regulate employment and work and companies whereas SB 1070 is really dealing with questions about whether people are authorized to be in this country," said Rabin.
Randy Parraz is with Citizens for a Better Arizona, a group that is currently trying to recall Sen. Pearce. He said this week's ruling means nothing.
"It's a ruling in favor of a law that really hasn't had an effect on changing Arizona it's done nothing to bring us new jobs it's done nothing to change the climate here," Parraz said.
Former state legislator Luis Gonzales also believes that a victory for the employer sanctions law is not necessarily mean a victory for SB 1070.
"I don't believe it makes SB 1070 any stronger from the day it was written. It was a bad law when it was conceived, it was a bad law when it was passed, and it's still a bad law, even if most of the parts are on hold right now by the courts," Gonzales told KGUN9.