FEBRUARY 04, 2010
Siding with powerful business interests that profit from hiring illegal aliens, a federal appellate court has struck down as unconstitutional key employment provisions in Oklahoma’s strict immigration control law.
The 2007 measure (Oklahoma Taxpayer and City Protection Act) aims to curtail the state’s illegal immigration crisis by limiting public benefits to illegal aliens, requiring deportation for those arrested and cracking down on businesses that employ them. That portion of the law subjects employers to stiff penalties if they are caught hiring illegal immigrants.
It prohibits firing workers who are in the U.S. legally while retaining undocumented workers, requires businesses to obtain documents proving that employees of private contractors are authorized to work in the country and requires companies with government contracts to use a federal database known as E-Verify to check eligibility of job seekers.
In mid 2008 a federal judge (Robin Cauthron) in Oklahoma City blocked all three employment provisions, ruling that the state measure preempts federal law on immigration and that the state cannot create or impose guidelines that conflict with the Constitution or federal law.
The state appealed and this week the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down two of the three employer stipulations, essentially agreeing with the lower court’s assessment that they cannot be enforced and are likely unconstitutional. Businesses forced to comply with the law will face significant risk of suffering financial harm, the justices wrote in their decision.
Influential state and national business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, filed the lawsuit in an effort to get rid of the measure. However, the appellate court did rule in favor of the portion of Oklahoma’s law that requires employers with government contracts to use E-Verify to check the eligibility of its workers.
Last October a different federal judge (James Payne) dismissed a separate lawsuit aimed at killing Oklahoma’s law, which also denies state identification cards to illegal immigrants, in its entirety. Filed on behalf of a group of anonymous illegal immigrants, that suit claimed that the state measure discriminates against all immigrants but Judge Payne disagreed.
In his strongly worded ruling, Judge Payne said that anonymous illegal alien plaintiffs do not have standing or the right to sue to prevent the law’s implementation. He also pointed out that the illegal immigrants filed the suit in order to remove any barriers the state had erected to their continued violation of federal laws. “These illegal alien plaintiffs seek nothing more than to use this court as a vehicle for their continued unlawful presence in this country,” he wrote.
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