It was a closely watched case concerning the issue of immigration.  And, now, a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that not only upholds the constitutionality of an Arizona law, but a key ruling that is likely to shape the future of this debate.

In a 5-3 decision in the case of Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the high court concluded that the Legal Arizona Workers Act, an employer-sanctions law that penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, is constitutional.  In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts correctly determined that the law “does not conflict with federal immigration law.”

He also concluded that Congress had “preserved the ability of the states to impose their own sanctions” in an effort to control illegal immigration and that the Arizona law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”

The complete decision is posted here.

This is an important victory for Arizona, and other states, to move forward in a constitutional manner to protect their borders and citizens. The decision provides a realistic roadmap for states to take appropriate action in enacting legislation that is constitutional.  It’s clear that states can take action that compliments federal immigration law without violating it. The decision affirms that the Arizona law represents a valid and constitutional exercise of Arizona’s police powers.

I’m delighted to report that the high court agreed with the argument we presented to the court.  In an amicus brief, we supported this commonsense law that penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

In our amicus brief, posted here, we argued: “State laws, like the Legal Arizona Workers Act, that mirror federal immigration provisions and incorporate federal standards promote national policy and should not be preempted.”

Our brief also noted that “illegal immigration is a serious problem” and argues that the “federal government has proved inadequate to the tasks of enforcing current immigration laws and building consensus toward needed immigration reform” leaving states to “cope on their own.”

This decision comes as Arizona’s broader immigration law, known as SB1070, is moving through the lower courts.  Just last month, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court (the same court, by the way, that upheld AZ’s employer sanction law) upheld a trial judge’s ruling blocking enforcement of SB1070.  That case is on its way to the Supreme Court.

While today’s decision certainly does not provide a definitive answer on the constitutionality of SB1070, I’m very encouraged.  This decision is a positive development.  It’s a helpful sign that the high court understands that states can play a vital and constitutional role in regulating immigration.

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