WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court continued to hear arguments today in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the first challenge to the recent wave of state and local anti-immigrant laws to reach the Supreme Court. The case, brought by a broad coalition of civil rights and business groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arizona, MALDEF, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the United States Chamber of Commerce, challenges an Arizona law that imposes penalties on businesses that the state determines have employed workers not lawfully authorized to work in the U.S.
One of the strictest such state laws in the nation, the Arizona scheme imposes severe sanctions on employers who have hired unauthorized workers and improperly requires all employers in the state to participate in an employment verification database system, E-Verify, that is explicitly voluntary under federal law. The coalition's lawsuit charges that the Arizona law conflicts with federal law and violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. The United States Justice Department has filed a brief supporting the coalition's position.
The following quotes can be attributed as stated:
Omar C. Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project: "Arizona's employer sanctions law is an unwise, unfair and unconstitutional attempt to unilaterally override federal law that creates an unacceptable risk of discrimination against lawful workers. The Court should firmly reject the Arizona law."
Linton Joaquin, National Immigration Law Center General Counsel: "In enacting comprehensive regulation of immigrant employment in 1986, Congress expressly prohibited state laws such as the Legal Arizona Workers Act. Arguments presented today illustrated the dangers workers and employers face from such unjust and unconstitutional state efforts to create their own immigration regulations. We are hopeful that the Court will finally put this matter to rest and quell the rising tide of state-level anti-immigrant legislation, which would result in an untenable system of patchwork immigration policy."
Cynthia Valenzuela Dixon, MALDEF Director of Litigation: "We hope that after hearing oral argument today, the Supreme Court understands and agrees that Arizona's unconstitutional law carries with it serious civil rights implications. Congress created E-Verify as a voluntary program for good reason. The government's own studies show that E-Verify is riddled with problems, and that the error rates are significantly higher for naturalized citizens, foreign-born workers with employment authorization, and workers with non-English surnames. Allowing states and local jurisdictions to mandate what Congress made voluntary would blatantly disregard the civil rights protections that Congress purposely put into place."
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs Valle del Sol, Chicanos por la Causa and Somos America include Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Daniel Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona; Jonathan Weissglass and Stephen Berzon of Altshuler Berzon LLP; Valenzuela Dixon of MALDEF; and Joaquin and Karen C. Tumlin of NILC.