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Ninth Circuit Blocks Employment Portions of Arizona Immigration Law

    Client Alerts
  • April 22, 2011

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a temporary injunction barring enforcement of certain provisions of the controversial Arizona immigration act passed last year. Among other things, the act creates criminal sanctions against employers that employ illegal aliens, including aliens who are released pending deportation proceedings. An Arizona federal district court issued a preliminary injunction, concluding that this and other portions of the law were likely to be declared invalid at trial.

The Ninth Circuit agreed, denying an Arizona appeal seeking to dissolve the injunction. While the court did not make a final ruling on the merits of the case, it determined that the district court was correct in concluding that the Arizona law was unlikely to survive the legal challenge. The Ninth Circuit stated that the enjoined portions of the Arizona law appear to directly conflict with federal immigration law, and Congress' intent to set nationwide standards for employment sanctions involving use of illegal aliens.

Arizona's immigration initiatives have served as the model for other states' laws seeking to fill a perceived void in federal enforcement of immigration laws. This decision may give other states pause before considering adoption of measures based on the latest Arizona law. Later this year, the Supreme Court will rule on a challenge to an earlier Arizona law that would revoke business licenses for companies found to have knowingly hired illegal aliens.