Oral argument: Dec. 8, 2010
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Sept. 17, 2008)
PREEMPTION, EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION, IRCA, LEGAL ARIZONA WORKERS ACT
The state of Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007 (“LAWA”). The law authorizes the Arizona Attorney General and county attorneys to sue employers who knowingly or intentionally employed unauthorized workers such as illegal aliens as a means of combating illegal immigration. Congress, however, previously enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which imposes different sanctions on employers for hiring illegal immigrants. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States, along with various business and civil rights organizations, claimed that federal law preempts LAWA, thus making it invalid. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce argued that LAWA fostered employment discrimination against “foreign-looking” individuals and unduly harmed businesses. However, those in support of LAWA claimed that the state has the authority under its “police powers” to enforce the statute and that it was not preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will shed light on the extent to which a state may enforce its own laws in an area that is also covered by federal law. Additionally, the Court’s ruling will affect the ability of states to use certain measures to deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants.