Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Workplace Identification
May 27, 2011, 11:12 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF
It’s great news that that the Supremes have agreed with the idea that a state has the right to enforce federal immigration laws, at least to a degree.

The liberal apologists for lawbreaking always say to go after the employer, but they have never supported E-verify, which is the first step toward getting serious about workplace enforcement. But now the Court has paved the way for wider use of the identification database.

Roy Beck thinks this ruling will motivate Congress to pass a national law: Ariz. E-Verify Victory in U.S. Supreme Court Adds Pressure for House to Pass National Mandate This Summer (Senate in the Fall).

Steve Camarota feels similarly:

Supreme Court OKs Arizona’s business immigration law, Washington Times, May 26, 2011

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that requires all businesses to check to make sure their employees are in the country legally — upholding a state’s effort to enhance federal immigration laws.

Though the decision does not address Arizona’s other law, which granted police broader powers to check illegal immigrants’ status, it suggested a majority of the court is willing to give states a little room to experiment on immigration issues.

In the 5-3 ruling the majority said that while federal law says the national government can’t make electronic checks of employees’ work-eligibility mandatory, the law does not bar states from doing so. And since Arizona’s law deals with business licensing — an area states are allowed to control — it does not impinge on the federal government.

�Arizona’s procedures simply implement the sanctions that Congress expressly allowed the States to pursue through licensing laws,� Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in his opinion. �Given that Congress specifically preserved such authority for the States, it stands to reason that Congress did not intend to prevent the States from using appropriate tools to exercise that authority.�

E-Verify has been a controversial tool since Congress first authorized it in 1996, when it was known as the �Basic Pilot Program.� The voluntary program allowed businesses to register with the government and gain access to a database that instantly checks job applicants’ Social Security numbers to make sure they are eligible to work.

In the beginning, immigrant-rights advocates complained that it rejected too many eligible workers, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs E-Verify, has made improvements and brought the erroneous non-confirmation rate down significantly.

Dissenting in the case were Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case.

Justice Breyer, in his dissent, said allowing states to make rulings based on E-Verify increases the chances for errors, and said the system itself is already too error-prone.

�Either directly or through the uncertainty that it creates, the Arizona statute will impose additional burdens upon lawful employers and consequently lead those employers to erect ever stronger safeguards against the hiring of unauthorized aliens — without counterbalancing protection against unlawful discrimination,� Justice Breyer said.

In her separate dissent, Justice Sotomayor said the fact that Congress has had chances to make E-Verify a mandated program and has not done so means that the federal government means for it to be voluntary — and that Arizona is overstepping its bounds.

The ruling is bound to reignite the immigration debate on Capitol Hill.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said Thursday he’ll introduce legislation to make E-Verify use mandatory across the country, and praised the court for upholding Arizona’s law.

�Not only is this law constitutional, it is commonsense,� he said. �American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.

Obama administration officials have said they support making E-Verify mandatory for national use, but only as part of a total overhaul of the immigration system that would include legalization and new programs to bring in foreign workers.

In the meantime, Arizona has been joined by other states that have made the program’s use mandatory either for all businesses or for certain classes of businesses.

Arizona last year passed another contentious law that gave police more powers to check the identity of illegal immigrants. That law has been blocked by the federal courts, and Gov. Jan Brewer has said they will appeal those rulings to the Supreme Court.