WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court accepted Monday to hear a suit by business and civil rights groups against a 2007 Arizona law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers.
Among the organizations challenging the Legal Arizona Workers Act are the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
LAWA, as the measure is known, penalizes companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers and requires them to take part in a federal program known as E-Verify, under which companies have to verify the immigration status of new employees.
Companies that do not comply with the law are subject to heavy fines.
The legislation was enacted in 2007 by then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, now serving as secretary of homeland security.
In September 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, rejected the appeal of those suing Arizona over LAWA.
On that occasion, the plaintiffs argued that Arizona had exceeded its authority and that only the federal government can enforce immigration laws.
The Supreme Court will begin its hearing of the case in October, when its next session begins.
LAWA is different from the SB1070 law against illegal immigration passed by Arizona’s current governor, Jan Brewer, signed April 23, but the measures are related.
If SB1070 goes into effect at the end of July, it would reinforce LAWA against companies that hire undocumented workers.
SB1070 is already facing five class-action suits trying to stop it in the courts, including one filed by the ACLU. It is foreseen that the Justice Department will announce, perhaps as soon as this week, whether it will challenge the measure in the courts.
The Supreme Court has agreed to study the case on the last day of the current session, which will also be the last day for 90-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, who has chosen to retire this year.
Meanwhile, a few blocks from the Supreme Court, the Senate Judiciary Committee began Monday the confirmation process for U.S. Solicitor-General Elena Kagan to substitute Stevens in the lifetime position. EFE