Arizona has the right idea for the illegal alien problem: Go after the businesses that hire them!

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

The 5-to-3 decision appeared to endorse vigorous state efforts to punish employers who intentionally hire illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, said that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.

The challenge to the Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration.

They said the law in question, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.

The decision on Thursday turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who” recruit or hire “unauthorized aliens.”

The question was whether Arizona was entitled to supplement the penalties in the 1986 federal law with much tougher ones of its own. The state argued that the phrase in parentheses — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — allowed it to suspend or revoke the business licenses of repeat offenders. Critics called that provision of the state law a “business death penalty.”

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