Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Court won’t overturn employer-sanctions law

Business groups lost another round in trying to overturn Arizona’s prohibition on knowingly hiring illegal immigrants when a federal appeals court that upheld the year-old law refused to reconsider arguments.

Even so, the refusal Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco probably doesn’t put an end to their challenge of Arizona’s employer sanctions law.

The groups, which have yet to plot their next move, can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case or wait for the possibility that the nation’s highest court would take up any conflicting ruling that might come in the future from employer sanctions challenges in other states, such as Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Julie Pace, a lawyer representing the business groups, said legal challenges of employer sanctions laws are likely to continue across the country as long as states enact a patchwork of restrictions on hiring illegal immigrants, because they make it hard for businesses with national operations to operate. “From a big-picture perspective at a national level, it’s not over yet,” Pace said.

Arizona’s employer sanctions law, which is intended to lessen the economic incentive for immigrants to sneak into the country, prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and requires businesses to verify the work eligibility of new workers through a federal database. Violators face the suspension or revocation of their business licenses. The law doesn’t carry criminal penalties.

Although authorities in Arizona said they have examined several dozen employer sanctions complaints, no civil cases have been made against businesses for illegal hirings in the 14 months since the law has been in effect.

But the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has accused employees of a handful of businesses of using forged documents or stolen identities to get jobs. The law has prompted or contributed to an unknown number of illegal immigrants leaving Arizona for their home countries or other states.

Business and civil rights groups argued the law is an unconstitutional attempt by the state to regulate immigration and that cracking down on such hirings is the sole responsibility of the federal government.

Supporters of the law said state punishments were needed because the federal government hasn’t adequately enforced a federal law that already prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Attorneys for the state argued the state law doesn’t conflict with federal law.

Anne Hilby, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which defended the law in court, said she wouldn’t speculate on whether the challenge to the state’s employer sanctions law is over with.

It’s up to the business groups to decide if they want to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case, Hilby said.

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