Valle del Sol v. Goddard (Arizona Contractors v. Candelaria)

The Legal Arizona Workers Act requires all employers in the state of Arizona to verify their employees’ immigration status through a voluntary federal Electronic Employment Verification System, known as “E-Verify.”  The Social Security Administration’s own studies have shown that the E-Verify database contains incorrect information for nearly 13 million U.S.-born citizens and almost 10% of naturalized citizens.  Employers face serious penalties and fines if they knowingly hire someone who is not legally authorized to work according to the information obtained through the E-Verify database.  As a result of the erroneous information obtained through the E-Verify system, hundreds of thousands of legal workers have been and will continue to be wrongfully denied employment.

On December 12, 2007, MALDEF, the ACLU, and the law firm of Altshuler Berzon filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona employer sanctions law.  A related lawsuit was filed by business association plaintiffs on December 10, 2007, and the cases were consolidated going forward.

On February 7, 2008, Judge Neil V. Wake dismissed the cases for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and stated that there was no justiciable case or controversy before the Court. Judge Wake held that the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) expressly authorizes, rather than preempts, the employer licensing sanctions in the Act. Judge Wake also found that the Act’s requirement that all Arizona employers participate in E-Verify does not conflict with the purposes and objectives of Congress, and is therefore not preempted under the Supremacy Clause. Judge Wake also held that the Act provides sufficient due process to Arizona employers charged with violating the Act.

Plaintiffs appealed Judge Wake’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral argument was held before a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California on June 12, 2008. On September 17, 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the consolidated appeals. In upholding Judge Neil Wake's decision at the trial court level, the appellate panel held that Judge Wake properly found that the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) is not preempted by the IRCA. The panel agreed with Judge Wake's finding that LAWA is not expressly preempted under 8 USC 1324(a)(h)(2), because it falls within the statutory savings clause which permits states to enact "licensing or similar laws." The panel also upheld Judge Wake's ruling that Arizona's decision to mandate that all employers in the state use E-Verify is not conflict preempted, because Congress did not expressly forbid States from making E-Verify mandatory when they made participation voluntary. On October 1, 2008, Appellants filed a Petition for Hearing and Rehearing En Banc with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and is currently pending before that Court.

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