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Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting  (09-115) 
Arizona statute that imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized aliens is not preempted 
Decided May 26, 2011 
[Opinion full text

Arizona's Legal Arizona Workers Act allows the superior courts of Arizona to suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers who knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized aliens. The appropriate county attorney is charged with bringing an action against the employer in superior court. The Act uses IRCA’s definition of "unauthorized alien," and requires that the court use the federal government’s determination of the employee’s lawful status. The Act makes participation in E-Verify mandatory for all employers, although it provides no penalty for violation of the requirement. The Act mandates a graduated series of sanctions for violations. 

The US Supreme Court has upheld The Legal Arizona Workers Act in a 5-3 decision against claims that it was preempted by federal legislation. 

In a complex series of opinions, the Supreme Court held that (1) Arizona's licensing law is not expressly preempted, (2) Arizona's licensing law is not impliedly preempted, (3) Arizona's requirement that employers use E-Verify in no way obstructs achieving the aims of the federal program.

Case below: Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. v. Napolitano (9th Cir 09/17/2008)
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted:. June 28, 2010.
Oral argument: December 8, 2010.  [Transcript]  [Audio

Justice Kagan is recused in this case.
The Acting Solicitor General will participate in oral argument as amicus curiae. 

Questions presented:   

1. Whether an Arizona statute that imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized aliens is invalid under a federal statute that expressly "preempt[s] any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens." 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2).

2. Whether the Arizona statute, which requires all employers to participate in a federal electronic employment verification system, is preempted by a federal law that specifically makes that system voluntary. 8 U.S.C. § 1324a note.

3. Whether the Arizona statute is impliedly preempted because it undermines the "comprehensive scheme" that Congress created to regulate the employment of aliens. Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 147 (2002).

Certiorari Documents: 

Briefs on the merits: 


  • For Petitioner Chamber of Commerce: Carter G. Phillips; Sidley Austin LLP; 1501 K Street, N.W.; Washington, DC  20005; cphillips@sidley.com; (202) 736-8000.
  • For Respondents Janice K. Bewer, Arizona Governor, et al.: Mary Ruth O'Grady; Office of the Attorney General; 1275 W. Washington; Phoenix, AZ  85007-2926; (602) 542-8986.

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