The Supreme Court yesterday upheld an Arizona law that penalizes businesses for knowingly employing workers who are in the United States illegally.   In a 5-3 vote, the Court rejected arguments that immigration is solely a federal responsibility and that states should have no role in immigration matters.  Instead, the Court said that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.  Employers found to have violated the law can have their business licenses suspended or revoked.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.” The decision placed the Court’s five Republican appointed justices on the side of the state, and against the Chamber of Commerce, which challenged the law along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The decision does not give states or local governments a blank check to pass any and every immigration law.  States and local laws that do not carefully and assiduously track federal laws or that merely masquerade as licensing laws would still be preempted,” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in response to the Supreme Court decision.

The Court’s decision did not shed light on how the Justices would view Arizona’s more controversial law that would mandate that police, while enforcing other laws, must question a person’s immigration status, if officials have reasonable doubts or suspect that person has entered the country illegally.  That law is being challenged by the Obama administration and has been blocked by lower federal courts.  Arizona has stated that it intends to ask the Supreme Court to review that law this summer.