Nation's Highest Court Give Skeptical Reaction to Foes of Arizona's State Employer Sanctions Law

Phoenix, AZ – The 2007 Arizona law allows state judges to suspend or revoke the
licenses of any firm found guilty of knowingly hiring
undocumented workers. Carter Phillips who represents the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce argued that intrudes into the exclusive arena
of the federal government. He conceded under questioning by the
justices that a 1986 federal law does allow states to take away
licenses. But he said that exemption does not mean Arizona can
have its own trials, separate from federal hearings, to determine
who is breaking the law.

(The statute is more reasonably interpreted to say let the federal
government do its thing, make a final determination. And if at
the end of that you would in the ordinary course add a sanction
to it, then Arizona is free to do that. But what it's not free to
do is create an entire parallel mechanism to enforce what it
purports to claim is state law in the guise of enforcing federal

Phillips also said federal immigration law provides equal
penalties for those who hire undocumented workers with those who
discriminate against applicants. But he said the Arizona law is
not only one sided but it's definition of licenses is so broad
and the penalties are so draconian as to encourage companies to
err on the side of not hiring anyone who even looks like an
illegal immigrant.

(Here the state of Arizona revokes articles of incorporation
which don't give you fitness to do business or a right to do
anything. They just accept to exist. So if you strip somebody of
their article of incorporation you basically impose the death
penalty on the business.)

State Sen. Russell Pearce who crafted the law and attended the
hearing, defended it. And he noted that hiring undocumented
workers is already against federal law.

(This is just one of the areas where Arizona has carefully chosen
to make sure that our employers follow the law. A novel idea, I
understand. We actually think you ought to follow the law in
Arizona. We're going to enforce the law if you don't. And if you
can't follow the law, we're going to allow you to go to some
other state that maybe will tolerate it to employ those illegal

Gov. Jan Brewer, also at the hearing, said the state has a right
to enact these kinds of laws even though immigration is a federal

(The bottom line is that we believe that if the government isn't
going to do the job, then Arizona is going to do the job. We are
faced with a crisis.)

One question not before the court is the future of SB 1070, which
lawmakers approved earlier this year. It gives police more power
to detain and arrest suspected illegal immigrants. The U.S.
Department of Justice is challenging that law, just as it is
challenging this one, saying states cannot enact their own
immigration statutes. That raises the question of whether SB 1070
is at risk if the Supreme Court voids this law.

(Well, not necessarily. I think that that's an issue that we'll
have to look at. But we will continue to push SB 1070. And we'll
continue to work with Congress. I will continue calling on
Congress and the federal government and Congress to STOP OUR

Elena Kagan, the newest justice, did not participate because the
U.S. Department of Justice is also challenging the law and she
was the federal solicitor general before joining the court. That
creates the possibility of a 4-4 tie. And in this case the tie
would go to the state because it leaves intact a 9th Circuit
ruling upholding the law. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard