Supreme Court votes to review Arizona employer sanctions law
PHOENIX — The nation’s high court agreed Monday to review Arizona’s law that punishes employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
Without comment, the justices said they want to review lower court rulings which found the law does not infringe on the exclusive right of the federal government to control immigration policy. Both a trial judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Arizona law fits within a narrow exception to federal statutes.
Monday’s decision could be the best chance for a coalition of business and civil rights groups to strike down the law: It takes the votes of four of the nine justices just to hear a case.
Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the architect of the law said he is “very concerned’’ that the court might have taken the case because of political pressure from the business community.
And Pearce said he always assumed three of the justices would never see things his way.
“They don’t believe in states’ rights,’’ he said. “They don’t believe in the Constitution, really.’’
But Pearce said he remains convinced the majority of justices, after hearing the arguments, eventually will allow the Arizona law to remain in place.
The decision of the justices to take a closer look followed legal briefs filed last month by the U.S. Department of Justice urging the high court to intercede in the lawsuit whose plaintiffs run from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce to the American Civil Liberties Union. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said the Arizona law specifically runs afoul of a federal law that bars states from imposing any sort of penalties on those who employ people not in the country legally.
That brief took on political overtones on Monday as confirmation hearings began in Washington for Elena Kagan to become the newest justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his opening statement, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he is “deeply troubled’’ by her decision, as the solicitor general to urge the Supreme Court to review and strike down the Arizona law.
“I think there are legitimate questions about whether the brief authorized by Ms. Kagan, which flies in the face of the plain language of the law and urges the Supreme Court to strike these enforcement provisions down, was motivated by political influence at the White House and within the Department of Justice,’’ Kyl said during his 10-minute statement. Kyl pointed to the unanimous 9th Circuit ruling which concluded states can punish companies by taking away their business licenses.
That decision to intercede by the solicitor general, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, is significant because it also comes as that agency is deciding whether to file suit on its own challenging another Arizona law, one that imposes new requirements on state and local police to check immigration status of some of the people they stop.