WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court gave a big boost to proponents of stricter state laws against illegal immigration by upholding Arizona's "business death penalty" for employers who repeatedly hire illegal workers.
The ruling gives a green light to more states to target those who employ illegal immigrants. It also has encouraged supporters of Arizona's even more controversial immigration law that authorizes police to detain and question persons who may be in the country illegally.
The 5-3 decision said Arizona may deny employers a license to do business for a second violation of its Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. Also upheld was Arizona's requirement that employers check with the federal E-Verify program before hiring new workers.
The justices rejected challenges from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Obama administration and civil rights groups, all of which contended that the state had gone too far and had interfered with the federal government's authority over immigration.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Arizona's licensing law "falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states."
The ruling on the employment question set the stage for a high court showdown as early as next year in the even bigger battle over Arizona's mandate for police detention of individuals they suspect are illegal.
Last year, the Obama administration sued Arizona to block that state law. A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the administration that the law would interfere with federal enforcement prerogatives and put it on hold.