Challenge To Arizona Employer Sanctions Law Continues In Appellate Court

February 7, 2008 12:00 am

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Lower Court Ruling Fails To Block Unconstitutional Statute

PHOENIX – After a Phoenix federal court today issued a decision that would allow Arizona officials to begin enforcement of the so-called Legal Arizona Workers Act on March 1, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) announced that they will ask the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to suspend the Act.

The Arizona law requires employers to check the eligibility of all potential workers – both U.S.-born and immigrants alike -against E-Verify (formerly known as Basic Pilot) – a voluntary, experimental and temporary federal database program with a high error rate – and could shut businesses down forever for purported immigration law violations. The civil rights coalition asserts that the new law conflicts with federal law and violates the constitutional right to due process by failing to provide any meaningful opportunity to challenge its application.

“This law places an unfair and unlawful burden on legally authorized Arizona workers who will lose their jobs because of flaws in this experimental database system unless they can convince a massive bureaucracy that they have the right to work,” said ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project attorney Omar Jadwat. “Arizona is shooting itself in the foot by aggressively pursuing this drastic and unprecedented sanctions regime that will harm innocent workers, close down businesses and increase discrimination against people of color.”

The federal government itself has recognized flaws in the E-Verify system, and federal law makes use of the database optional for employers. The vast majority of employers in Arizona and nationwide have elected not to use E-Verify.

“Arizona is attempting to override national law. The new statute adds to a growing patchwork of confusing and conflicting requirements from state to state that make it impossible for the federal government to enforce any meaningful policy,” said Linton Joaquin, Executive Director of NILC. “The United States Constitution makes immigration a federal issue for good reason.”

The coalition charges that the law will lead to unfair treatment of people perceived to be immigrants, regardless of their worker status.

“This law will encourage employers to avoid hiring workers who they perceive to be foreign-born because of an accent or the color of their skin and lead to unfair firing of eligible workers,” said Kristina Campbell, staff attorney with MALDEF. “Instead of punishing citizens and legal workers, Arizona should dedicate itself to enforcing the workplace wage and safety rights of all workers.”

Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arizona said, “Arizona’s improper attempt to enact its own immigration laws is already causing chaos and confusion. We are confident that the courts ultimately will agree that the Arizona law violates the Constitution.”

Similar local employer sanctions laws have been defeated in court, rejected or abandoned in 32* cities around the country.

Two cases challenging the Arizona law, Chicanos por la Causa v. Napolitano and Valle del Sol vs. Goddard, were filed on behalf of Valle del Sol, Chicanos por la Causa and Somos America, three Arizona-based organizations. Today’s decision was issued in the Valle del Sol case and related cases brought by business organizations.

Lawyers on the case include Jadwat, Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer C. Chang of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Daniel Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona; Jonathan Weissglass, Stephen Berzon and Rebecca Smullin of Altshuler Berzon LLP; Campbell and Cynthia Valenzuela of MALDEF; and Joaquin, Monica T. Guizar and Karen C. Tumlin of NILC.

More information about the lawsuit is available online at:

More information on the ACLU’s work against anti-immigrant laws can be found online at:

Note: In an earlier version of this press release, there was an error regarding the number of local employer sanctions laws that have been defeated in court, rejected or abandoned across the country. That release reported 25; the actual number, quoted here, is 32.

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