Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting

563 U.S. 582, 131 S. Ct. 1968 (2011)



Implied preemption analysis does not justify a free-wheeling judicial inquiry into whether a state statute is in tension with federal objectives; such an endeavor would undercut the principle that it is Congress rather than the courts that preempts state law. U.S. Supreme Court precedents establish that a high threshold must be met if a state law is to be pre-empted for conflicting with the purposes of a federal act. 


Petitioner business and civil rights organizations filed a pre-enforcement suit in federal court against respondent Arizona officials, specifically those charged with administering the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. The Legal Arizona Workers Act provides that the licenses of state employers that knowingly or intentionally employ unauthorized aliens may be, and in certain circumstances must be, suspended or revoked. That law also requires that all Arizona employers use E-Verify. In affirming the district court, the Court of Appeals agreed that Arizona's law was not preempted by federal immigration law. Certiorari was granted.


Was the Arizona law preempted by federal immigration law?




The District Court found that the plain language of IRCA's preemption clause did not invalidate the Arizona law because the law did no more than impose licensing conditions on businesses operating within the State. Nor was the state law preempted with respect to E-Verify, the court concluded, because although Congress had made the program voluntary at the national level, it had expressed no intent to prevent States from mandating participation. Th

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