Verifying State Authority on E-Verify and Immigration Reform
I’m slightly behind on this given the non-stop hectic pace of my life at the moment – despite having completed another semester of grad school (with flying colors I might add) – but I wanted to address the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on a controversial immigration law enacted by Arizona in 2007.
By a decision of 5-3, the Supreme Court upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act, also known as the “employer-sanctions law,” which imposes penalties on Arizona employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The law requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system in determining the citizenship status of job applicants prior to hiring them. Employers caught hiring illegal immigrants would have their licenses either suspended or revoked under provisions of the 2007 measure signed into law by former Governor Janet Napolitano (currently the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
Not only is this a landmark ruling within the context of immigration reform, but it could ignite an interesting debate among Constitutional scholars over how far states should be allowed to go in passing legislation in areas of public policy that are under federal jurisdiction. As Temple University law professor Peter Spiro tells The Washington Post, “… the court here is validating a state measure that implicates immigration enforcement. The court today has rejected an argument that states have no business in immigration enforcement. That’s off the table.”
As of 2010, 14 states had enacted similar legislation requiring the use of E-Verify, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The ruling also sets the stage for a possible showdown on Arizona’s recently passed and even more controversial Senate Bill 1070, which allows law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of apprehended individuals if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally. The measure was drafted by State Senator Russell Pearce, a former Maricopa County Chief Deputy.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft the language of Arizona’s two immigration measures, expressed confidence that if the Supreme Court were to decide on SB 1070, it would be in Arizona’s favor. He said the ruling on the 2007 law could entail a favorable ruling on SB 1070. “That language will vastly assist the state in defending SB1070,” he told The Washington Post.