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U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona law on tough penalties against hiring illegal immigrants.

WASHINGTON DC — In what it is considered as a political defeat of the federal government, the United States Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law about tough penalties on U.S. businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

A majority of five Supreme Court Judges authorized Arizona´s efforts to stop the employment of illegal workers.  Three judges voted against the resolution. The Supreme Court majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and the document noted that West Virginia , Virginia , Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Mississippi, and Colorado have similar laws to the one at issue in the case.  This Supreme Court decision will support these states in its efforts to fight illegal work employment.

The Arizona law that was upheld was challenged  by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. The coalition said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.

The Arizona law supplement the penalties of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act. , with harsher penalties. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Arizona law. In that sense Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the U.S. majority opinion document that the 1986 federal law should be read broadly to allow states to supplement federal efforts to prevent the hiring of illegal workers. His decision was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and, for the most part, Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice Roberts responded that Congress could easily have limited the phrase had it wanted to.  Chief Justice Roberts wrote the Arizona law is a measured response to a real problem.  He added that there was no reason to fear that the state law would lead to discrimination against Hispanics lawfully in the United States.

“The most rational path for employers,” the chief justice wrote, “is to obey the law — both the law barring the employment of unauthorized aliens and the law prohibiting discrimination — and there is no reason to suppose that Arizona employers will choose not to do so.”

The decision, also upheld a second aspect of the Arizona law, this one making mandatory an otherwise voluntary federal program, E-Verify, that allows employers to verify whether potential employees are authorized to work.

In his dissent, Justice Breyer said it was a mistake to require use of a “pilot program” (allegedly E-Verify) that is “prone to error.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate dissent. Justice Elena Kagan was recused from the case because she had worked on it as United States solicitor general.

“I cannot believe,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, “that Congress intended for the 50 states and countless localities to implement their own distinct enforcement and adjudication procedures for deciding whether employers have employed unauthorized aliens” , making reference to the Supreme Court´s decision of approving the right of Arizona to supplement a federal law.