Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. v. Napolitano

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In Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. v. Napolitano, 544 F.3d 976, 984-85 (9th Cir. 2008), the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that federal immigration law does not preempt local laws that suspend or revoke licenses on the basis of violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ("IRCA"), or state licensing laws that require employers not to hire unauthorized workers. The Court held that federal law does allow states to condition an employer's "fitness to do business" on hiring documented workers. Finding that the Legal Arizona Workers Act merely revoked state licenses to do business in Arizona if the business hired illegal aliens, the Court upheld the law against a facial challenge. The Court did pass judgment on any lawsuit based on enforcement of the Arizona law.

This lawsuit was brought by an assortment of business and civil-rights organizations against the fifteen county attorneys of the state of Arizona, the Governor of Arizona, the Arizona Attorney General, the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, and the Director of the Department of Revenue of Arizona. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Legal Arizona Workers Act ("the Act"), Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 23-211 to 23-216, is expressly and impliedly preempted by the federal IRCA, 8 U.S.C. §§ 1324a-1324b, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 ("IIRIRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (1996), codified in various sections of 8 U.S.C. and 18 U.S.C. This lawsuit also contended that the Act violates employers' rights to due process by denying them an opportunity to challenge the federal determination of the work-authorization status of their employees before sanctions are imposed.

The district court held that the law was not preempted, and the plaintiffs' main argument on appeal was that the law is expressly preempted by the federal immigration law provision preempting state regulation "other than through licensing and similar laws." 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2). But the Ninth Circuit held that the district court correctly determined that the Act was a "licensing" law within the meaning of the federal provision and therefore was not expressly preempted.

Judge Mary Schroeder, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, wrote the decision for the unanimous three-judge panel.