The U.S. Supreme Court has handed our great state a significant victory. It upheld our 2007 law penalizing businesses for knowingly hiring workers who are here illegally.
No longer will companies be able to ignore the rule of law and hire illegal aliens, shutting out legal Arizona workers. With the highest unemployment in a generation, we must do all we can to get Arizona back to work, and this ruling means those here legally will not have to compete with the illegal crowd. That is great news.
In 2007, I sponsored HB 2779, the "Fair and Legal Employment Act," because I knew something needed to be done to stop the profits-over-patriotism crowd. These companies ignored the law and hired illegals because it was cheap labor, but certainly not cheap to the Arizona taxpayer - in the cost of $2.6 billion to educate, medicate and incarcerate illegal aliens.
Now, with this Supreme Court ruling, the state has the clear right to require employers to verify work eligibility status of all new employees. The E-verify system puts the responsibility for verifying documents on the government, with 99.7 percent accuracy.
Now that our efforts have proven to not only be the right thing to do but to also be politically popular, you are seeing people who have fought us looking to claim credit. Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano did sign HB 2779, but that's not the whole story. She opposed this bill and just about every effort we made to crack down on illegal immigration, but the writing was on the wall. We were collecting thousands of signatures to put a tougher measure on the ballot. Napolitano had no choice but to sign this bill, to avoid that tougher law. All you have to do is look at her efforts as Secretary of Homeland Security to know that she believes in non-enforcement of our immigration laws.
The message is now clear to any business that is still considering hiring illegals. If you do so, you will face sanctions, and you could lose your license to operate. This is indeed a "death penalty" for those businesses that choose to hire those here illegally. Fewer illegals means more job openings for citizens looking for work. We are hoping to bring down the "help wanted" sign in our state.
Illegal aliens are getting the message that they are not welcome in Arizona. Tens of thousands of illegals have left the state since we began our efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. It is working, and our state's taxpayers are paying less for emergency care at our hospitals and paying less for education at our schools. Our efforts are making a difference, and we will keep up the fight, with attrition by enforcement.
So what does this new ruling mean for the fate of SB 1070? I'd say it looks good. In his majority ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the employer sanctions law "falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states." That is at the heart of the fight over SB 1070, and Justice Roberts is making it clear a state has the right, and in fact the duty, to uphold and enforce federal laws. It is becoming pretty clear that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold SB 1070.
Russell Pearce is a Republican from Mesa and president of the Arizona Senate.