[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF; Reuters report] as constitutional an Arizona law which revokes the business licenses of employers who hire illegal immigrants. Pro-immigration, business, and civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] had challenged the Legal Arizona Workers Act [text, PDF], arguing that it violated employers’ due process rights by denying them the chance to contest allegations before the revocation of their licenses, and that the law was preempted by federal immigration laws. Lawyers for the state contended that while federal hiring regulations prevent states from imposing civil or criminal penalties against businesses for illegal hirings, states may still use their licensing procedures to punish violators. The Ninth Circuit held that the law
can and should be reasonably interpreted to allow employers, before any license can be adversely affected, to present evidence to rebut the presumption that an employee is unauthorized.
The court noted that because the law has not yet been enforced against any employer, future challenges to the law's application will not be controlled by Wednesday's decision. The court went on to conclude that the Act 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. In February, the Ninth Circuit had upheld [order, PDF; JURIST report] a district court's denial [JURIST report] of an emergency injunction to block enforcement of the Arizona law.
The subject of illegal immigration has become a hotly-debated issue in the US in recent years, and last year environmental advocacy groups challenged the constitutionality [JURIST report] of actions taken by US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, alleging he violated the separation of powers by circumventing a federal district court decision delaying construction of 1.5 miles of fencing along the Arizona-Mexico border. Last week, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [official website] officials told Congress [hearing materials; JURIST report] that a 670-mile fence along the US-Mexican border [JURIST news archive] is unlikely to be completed by year's end, largely because of legal challenges. The border fence, authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST report], was among initiatives advanced by the Bush administration [JURIST report] to deter illegal immigration.