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Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: CAP’s Angela Kelley on Supreme Court Decision on 2007 AZ Law
Press Statement

STATEMENT: CAP’s Angela Kelley on Supreme Court Decision on 2007 AZ Law

The following is a statement from Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy at the Center for American Progress, about today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a 2007 Arizona law mandating the use of E-verify:

The Supreme Court’s decision today in the case Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting in which it upheld the 2007 Arizona law mandating the use of E-verify by Arizona employers, while disappointing, does not foreshadow the outcome around the notorious and sweeping “SB 1070” immigration measure that is also held up in the courts. There are no tea leaves to be read in today’s decision. First, let’s look at the facts of this case. In a divided opinion, the Court held that federal law did not preempt the Legal Arizona Workers Act, or LAWA. The Court’s narrow ruling found that LAWA was consistent with Congress’s express intent to allow states to maintain their traditional role in licensing decisions.

LAWA remains deeply problematic as a matter of policy, despite the Court’s conclusion that the federal government’s supremacy over immigration laws did not preempt this limited state legislation. Like the U.S. Chamber, we worry about the adverse national policy implications of every state enacting its own version of LAWA, especially given the actual impact that the law has already had in Arizona. We know, for example, that many workers and businesses have gone off the books and into the cash economy. Even three years later, half of all employers still are not using the system despite the threat of losing their business license. And it hasn’t stopped unauthorized work—more than half of undocumented workers are deemed authorized by the system, some with the help of coaching by employers.

In short, today’s narrow legal ruling does not change the simple fact that deploying mandatory e-verify on top of an undocumented workforce is bad for business, bad for the economy, and bad for all American workers. Unless and until Congress deals with the fact that we have 8 million undocumented immigrants already in the workforce, mandating employer use of the program will cost at least $17.3 billion according to a CBO estimate. It will cost small businesses alone $2.6 billion to implement and use, and, because of its error rate, the law will result in close to 800,000 Americans—citizens and legal immigrants—losing their jobs.

Next, while the ruling is troubling for the practical reasons described above, it is critical to note that this case, Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting, has absolutely no bearing on the legal issues in the lawsuit challenging Arizona’s more recent anti-immigrant law – S.B. 1070, which requires police and other state officials to act as immigration agents and would lead inevitably to severe racial profiling. That legislation is far more sweeping than LAWA and its harshest provisions were quickly enjoined by a federal judge in July of 2010. In fact, the same court of appeals that upheld the constitutionality of LAWA struck down the constitutionality of S.B. 1070.

The ghastly effects of these two Arizona laws make clear the social and economic imperative for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reforms, which is the real story behind today’s decision.


To speak with a CAP expert about this issue, please contact Raúl Arce-Contreras at [email protected] or 202.478.5318.