Jim Kouri
Supremes torpedo Obama's Arizona lawsuit on illegal aliens
By Jim Kouri
May 27, 2011

In a definite setback for President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that individual states have the right to revoke the licenses businesses that know they are employing illegal aliens. The case is seen as a preview of another case involving Arizona and illegal aliens expected to go before the nation's highest court.

The justices — in a 5-3 decision — upheld Arizona's 2007 law, asserting that the state is well within its rights to enforce such an immigration law under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure that was passed during the Reagan Administration as part of a limited amnesty deal made with Democratic lawmakers.

This ruling — a disappointment for Obama in a week filled with disappointments — comes amid Department of Justice lawsuit against another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.

"While Obama is backtracking from one miscalculation after another, this ruling may provide other U.S. states the legal means to pass laws to protect their residents from adverse effects of illegal immigration," said former law enforcement officer Mike Snopes.

In today's decision, the court cited the Reagan Administration's federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.

The law reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring [illegal] workers, through licensing and similar laws.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion: "It uses the federal government's own definition of 'unauthorized alien,' it relies solely on the federal government's own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government's own system for checking employee status."

Despite President Obama's frequent verbal attacks against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that organization backed the lawsuit filed to invalidate the Arizona law in the courts.

Only eight justices ruled in this case since Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because the government made filings against Arizona when she was solicitor general at the Justice Department.

Roberts was joined in the majority by conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is seen as a swing vote. Left-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The Obama Justice Department has filed a separate suit against Arizona in hopes of blocking the 2010 law, which requires local police who are not federal agents responsible for immigration matters to determine whether people are in the country illegally during arrests or routine traffic stops.

Arizona's laws were slammed by Obama's administration as abusive and divisive.

© Jim Kouri


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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)


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