IRLI, in support of Arizona’s business licensing law that imposes sanctions on employers who hire illegal aliens, provided a friend-of-the-court brief requesting the U.S. Supreme Court affirm the 9th Circuit’s decision upholding the law. IRLI’s main objective in providing the court with a brief was to clarify that 8 U.S.C. § 1324a did not preempt Arizona’s state law. The Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 allows superior courts in Arizona to suspend or revoke business licenses of employers who knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized aliens, and makes participation in E-Verify mandatory for all employers.
IRLI supported Arizona by looking at the history and purpose of the federal immigration laws to show that the Arizona law comports with federal law and is not preempted. IRLI further explained that Congress enacted the federal legislative scheme with the purpose of allowing state and local governments to enact their own legislation in this regard.
The Supreme Court agreed with IRLI that 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2) did not preempt the Arizona law. The majority ruled that federal law “does not prevent Arizona from revoking the business licenses of state companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers, or from requiring employers in the state to use a federal electronic system to check that their workers are authorized to work in the United States. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts accepted the state of Arizona’s arguments about how the initiative was narrow and closely tracked and was modeled after the objectives of the 1986 federal law. Roberts also indicated that the Arizona law was the “route least likely to cause tension with federal law” and that the saving clause “provid[ed] a licensing exemption to general preemption of state worker laws.”