AILA Troubled by Supreme Court Decision That Opens Door to 50 Different Laws on Employment Verification

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 26, 2011

George Tzamaras

Jenny Werwa

WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is troubled by today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Arizona Legal Workers Act, a law that threatens to revoke the business licenses of companies in that state if they knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants and requires that Arizona businesses participate in the federal E-Verify program which Congress enacted as a voluntary “pilot program.” AILA agrees with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said that the majority reading of the law “subjects employers to a patchwork of enforcement schemes similar to the one that Congress sought to displace when it enacted IRCA.”

The decision did not address Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, the more high-profile Arizona immigration law which requires police to check the immigration status of individuals in certain circumstances. The main provisions of SB 1070 were successfully challenged in federal court on constitutional grounds and are on appeal.

According to David Leopold, President of AILA, “Today’s Supreme Court decision is no predictor of how the Court will come out on SB1070. The majority opinion appears to have turned on a narrow and technical reading of the ‘savings clause’ in IRCA that references state licensing laws. Those who might take some comfort from this decision, hoping that other state laws such as Arizona SB 1070 might be upheld, should pay close attention to the court's affirmation that state laws violate the Constitution if ‘they impose additional burdens on the Federal government.’”

Leopold added, “What is particularly troubling about this decision is the danger of a muddled mix of state immigration laws, each of which claims to essentially track the federal law, but each of which has its own tweaks and nuances. It will be extremely burdensome and expensive for employers who operate in multiple states across the country, and who wish, in good faith, to comply with our immigration laws, to ensure not only federal compliance but also compliance on a state-by-state level.”


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11052610.