The British Guardian -
Arizona's big win on immigration law -
The supreme court decision upholding LAWA makes immigration reform next to impossible now for the Obama administration -
By Stewart J Lawrence
May 27, 2011
Arizona's big win on immigration law
Some excerpts :
Thursday's decision by the US supreme court to uphold a 2007 Arizona state law punishing businesses that hire illegal aliens has just thrown a huge monkey wrench into the nation's immigration policy debate.
In fact, it's a landmark decision that threatens to push the boundary line between federal and state authority for immigration closer to the federalist principle that states have a right to initiate their own laws – a huge blow to traditonalists, including Obama justice department lawyers, who insist that the US constitution gives the federal government a near-monopoly on the making and enforcing of the nation's immigration laws.
The 2007 law in question, known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, or LAWA, allows state authorities to suspend, and if necessary, to revoke the business licences of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Even more striking, the law also mandates that employers adopt a workplace verification system known as "E-Verify" to screen prospective employees based on their legal status.
Two lower courts ruled in 2008 that LAWA was constitutional, despite furious challenges from a coalition of civil rights and immigration rights organisations, and business groups, which saw the sanctions law as likely to interfere with their ability to hire cheap foreign labour. The two lower courts, and now the US supreme court, cited a critical but little-known 1976 supreme court decision upholding a state employer sanctions law in California, as well as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, which established a new federal employer sanctions regime, but explicitly excluded issues relating to "business licencing" from the scope of the law.
US supreme court chief justice John Roberts cited that "savings clause" in his majority ruling that has upheld LAWA as constitutional. Three liberal justices, including Sonia Sotomayor disagreed, saying the 1986 law should "pre-empt" – meaning supercede – LAWA.
The Obama administration had hoped that the supreme court would strike Arizona's 2007 law down, as part of a broader push toward eliminating the growing patchwork of state laws that have emerged in the wake of the failure of Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform legislation. Instead, the court's decision is likely to do just the opposite: embolden conservatives – and even some progressive groups that favour local "sancutary" laws protecting illegal immigrants from being deported - to pass even more state-level laws.