Civil rights advocates sued the state of Arizona in federal court Tuesday, claiming the state's Legal Arizona Worker Act violates the U.S. Constitution and threatens the success of Arizona businesses.
The new law requires businesses to verify the employment eligibility of their workers through a federal database or face losing their business licenses.
Gov. Janet Napolitano has said she believes immigration is a federal responsibility. But, she said, she signed the bill passed near the end of this year’s legislative session because Congress seemed incapable of comprehensive immigration reform.
But groups including Chicanos Por La Causa and Somos America say the law conflicts not only with the 14th amendment to the Constitution, which ensures due process, but also with federal immigration law.
On Tuesday, attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU or Arizona, the law firm of Altshuler Berzon and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) joined the civil lawsuit against the state on behalf of Chicanos Por La Causa and Somos America.
Representatives from the groups describe the federal employment database as "voluntary," "experimental" and "error-ridden." It only covers 17,000 employers nationwide, said representatives from the groups filing suit.
"Under federal law, participation in (the database) is voluntary. By requiring Arizona employers to use this program, the Legal Arizona Workers Act runs afoul of the Constitution and will subject all Arizona employees regardless of legal status – Latinos in particular – to potential discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin," said Kristina Campbell, the lead MALDEF attorney on the case, in a press release.
Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said it becomes easier for business owners to discriminate against people they suspect being foreign rather than risk the fines and penalties under the law.
"That's not the way this country works,” she said in a press release. “We make laws to prohibit discrimination. We don't create laws that require people to discriminate."