What does the Supreme Court decision regarding the Legal Arizona Workers Act mean for California businesses?

  • By:admin

On May 26, 2011, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision holding that states and local governments can impose sanctions on businesses for the employment of unauthorized immigrants. The decision can be found here.  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-115.pdf.  The decision resulted from a lawsuit brought by the Obama Administration in federal court which alleged that federal immigration law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, pre-empts the Legal Arizona Workers Act (“LAWA”).  The LAWA requires businesses to use the E-Verify system created by Congress to ascertain the immigration status of employees and permits the court to suspend or revoke the license of any business intentionally employing unauthorized aliens.  The Supreme Court held that LAWA is not unconstitutional because the federal statute preserves state authority to impose sanctions through licensing and similar laws, and the scope of LAWA does not exceed this authority.  Many commenters noted that this could mean a push for the States to impose stricter immigration laws on business entities.

So what does this ruling mean for small business owners in California? Earlier this year, the California House Committee rejected Bill AB 26 which was modelled after LAWA.  Because California has not enacted any law similar to LAWA, unlike Arizona employers, California employers do not have to revise their practice of hiring unauthorized aliens.  However, some local governments in California, such as Mission Viejo, Temecula, Murrieta, Riverside, Santa Maria, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar and Lancaster have enacted ordinances requiring that certain employers use E-Verify to check the work authorization status of their employees.  Therefore, business owners should check their local ordinances to ensure that they properly comply with any E-verify requirements.

****The opinion above is not intended to be legal advice and absolutely does not create any attorney-client relationship between its author and the readers.  Please consult an attorney for information or advice specific to your legal issue.****

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