Court Upholds Tough Immigration Law in Arizona

We received this article from Fisher & Phillips LLP, a firm that represents employers nationally in labor and employment matters.  Attorneys at Fisher & Phillips are well-seasoned in matters concerning the H2 program as well as whole host of other labor-related issues.

Court Upholds Tough Arizona Immigration Law

By Brock McCormack and Kim Thompson


(Labor Letter, November 2008)


The Ninth Circuit recently upheld a tough Arizona immigration law, known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA), which targets employers who hire unauthorized workers. This is the first federal appeals court to rule on a challenge to a state immigration law.

LAWA, in effect since January 1, 2008, requires all businesses in the state of Arizona to use E-Verify to confirm the eligibility of newly hired employees to work in the United States. An employer found to have knowingly or intentionally hired an undocumented worker could face potentially devastating penalties – suspension of its business license for a first violation and permanent revocation of the license for a second violation. Many states have enacted immigration-related laws, including Mississippi, Georgia, and Missouri, but Arizona’s law is considered to be the harshest.

Although an Arizona business has yet to be sanctioned under the law, pro-business organizations and minority-rights groups preemptively sued to stop its enforcement. Those challenging the law included Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, Inc., U.S. and Arizona Chambers of Commerce, organizations representing specific industries and business interests, and Latino-rights organizations. They attacked the law on several fronts, arguing in federal district court that LAWA violates both the federal Constitution and federal law. The lower court ruled in favor of the State of Arizona, upholding the law. The decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and on September 17, 2008, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. CPLC v. Napolitano.

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