AZ Immigration Law Not Preempted

This morning the Supreme Court issued its decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting in which it concluded that federal law does not preempt an Arizona law that provides for the revocation or suspension of business licenses as a penalty for the knowing employment of illegal immigrants. The vote was 5-3. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, but Justice Thomas did not join portions of his opinion. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justice Ginsburg, as did Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan was recused.

Here is how Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion begins:

Federal immigration law expressly preempts “any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ . . . unauthorized aliens.” 8 U. S. C. §1324a(h)(2). A recently enacted Arizona statute—the Legal Arizona Workers Act—provides that the licenses of state employers that knowingly or intentionally employ unauthorized aliens may be, and in certain circumstances must be, suspended or revoked. The law also requires that all Arizona employers use a federal electronic verification
system to confirm that the workers they employ are legally authorized workers. The question presented is whether federal immigration law preempts those provisions of Arizona law. Because we conclude that the State’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law, we hold that the Arizona law is not preempted.

UPDATE: Josh Blackman walks through the opinions here.

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