In yet another display for the need of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), the Supreme Court of the United States appears as though it will remain deadlocked on the issue of whether state laws may punish companies for hiring illegal immigrants. From all accounts, it appears that the Legal Arizona Workers Act, or the “business death penalty” will stand. The Supreme Court’s stalemate could very well signal trouble for other state and local immigration laws.
Lower courts have upheld the Arizona law, which imposes the so-called business death penalty on employers who are caught twice konwingly hiring illegal workers. The Obama Administration joined with the Chamber of Commerce in arguing that the state law should be voided because it conflicts with the federal government’s authority over immigration. Since Justice Elena Kagan announced that she would not participate in the decision, a 4-4 split is possible meanining that no precedent would be set and the law would be upheld.
It has been more than 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a clash between a state and the federal government over immigration. The current split marks the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. Immigration laws. Given that states and cities across the country are considering new enforcement measures to target illegal immigration, these controversies will continue until Congress enacts broad sweeping legislation to deal with illegal immigration. CIR will create a uniform set of rules for a broken immigration system and will stop states from pushing the boundaries of federalism and the constitution.
Congress can end the controversy by reforming the broken Immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform. New federal immigration laws could be challenged in federal courts and appeals to the Supreme Court challenging the new laws would allow the Court to decide the constitutionality of Congressioanl acts. The current split highlights problem: states want immigration reform and will reform their laws in the absence of Congressional action. The Supreme Court will continue to be asked to decide whether states’ acts conflict with broken federal immigration laws until action by Congress finally ends the debate.