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13 states file brief supporting Arizona immigration hiring law

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) [official profile] announced Thursday that he, along with 12 other state attorneys general, has filed an amici curiae brief [press release] before the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] supporting an Arizona statute that imposes sanctions on employers that hire illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive]. In Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [docket; JURIST report], the court will determine whether the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) [materials] is preempted by federal law. Koster contends that the statute is valid under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 [text], which authorizes states to license businesses and penalize those that violate hiring regulations. A decision invalidating the policy would significantly impede states' abilities to enforce their business and immigration laws, according to Koster. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for next month.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the statute in 2008 on the basis that it is a licensing law, which exempts it from being preempted by federal law. The court also concluded that the LAWA reflects the "rising frustration with the United States Congress's failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform," and did not overstep the state's authority to regulate immigration. Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on Arizona's more recent controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The state's representatives argued that Arizona is on the front line of human and drug trafficking from Mexico, and the law is meant to assist with the enforcement and implementation of federal immigration law when the federal government is either "unable or unwilling to solve the problem. The federal government cautioned that allowing states to create immigration policy could create a patchwork system and potentially harm foreign relations.

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