Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law

By a 5-3 vote Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law that imposes sanctions against businesses that hire illegal immigrants. The court also upheld the state’s law requiring all employers to utilize E-Verify, a federal electronic employment eligibility verification system that had been voluntary nationwide. Leaders of agricultural groups, including American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), were quick to respond to the ruling. What are the implications for greenhouse and nursery growers?

“First, some state legislatures, which have been contemplating such laws but have held back waiting for the high court’s decision, may now proceed,” says Craig Regelbrugge, ANLA’s vice president of government relations and research. “So we may see more states take immigration law into their own hands.”

A few states, like Georgia, did not wait. “Georgia’s law was signed recently by Governor Nathan Deal,” Regelbrugge adds. “Already, it is having a devastating impact on the farm sector. Georgia vegetable growers are reporting the farm worker migrant stream is largely bypassing the state, leading to severe labor shortages that may leave crops rotting in the fields.”

On the federal level, proponents of mandatory E-Verify for all employers are using the law to justify their goals. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith plans to introduce a mandatory E-Verify bill within the next few weeks, and ANLA believes it will pass the House. It may also pass the Senate and become law.

“Mandatory E-Verify would screen out and render unemployable (at least on the books) an estimated 50 to 70 percent of the greenhouse, nursery and farm labor force,” Regelbrugge says. “In the face of this challenge, ANLA is leading the effort to convince Congress to include a workable agricultural visa program as a component of any E-Verify legislation. Such a program must address both future needs and the status of the experienced workforce. Failure to do so will have lasting economic and job-destroying consequences.”

In the majority Supreme Court opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Congress had preserved the ability of the states to impose their own sanctions and “Arizona’s procedures simply implement the sanctions that Congress expressly allowed Arizona to pursue through licensing laws,” adding that the Arizona law “relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking employee status.”

Roberts was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case because of her previous job as solicitor general in the Obama administration, which had opposed the law.

Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007, which allowed Arizona to suspend the licenses of businesses that “intentionally or knowingly” violate work-eligibility verification requirements. Under the Arizona law, companies would be required to use the federal E-Verify database to check the documentation of current and prospective employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit against Arizona, arguing federal law prohibits Arizona and other states from making E-Verify use mandatory.

The likely impact of the court’s decision is additional states may move to copy Arizona’s law and look to implement E-Verify on their own. There may also be renewed enthusiasm in the nation’s capitol to pass a mandatory E-Verify law.

As news of the ruling spread through the state, many merchants and business leaders expressed resignation, the Arizona Republic reported. Several business groups argued the employer sanctions legal battle underscores the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform. “We were disappointed, and we still believe the right place to handle issues related to immigration is on the federal level,” Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the newspaper. The chamber was a plaintiff in the case. “If there is a silver lining, it is this will increase the pressure on the Congress and the administration to do something meaningful in this area,” he added, citing increasing border security and creating workable temporary visa programs for immigrant laborers of all skill levels.

Gov. Jan Brewer and others who back tougher immigration laws voiced optimism that the ruling bodes well for Senate Bill 1070, which made it a state crime to be in the country illegally. Passed in 2010, the state’s controversial immigration law started a media firestorm and is also making its way to the Supreme Court. “While SB 1070 and the Legal Arizona Workers Act are obviously different laws,” the governor said in a statement, “I am hopeful and optimistic the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Arizona’s future appeal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision against SB 1070 and apply the same general principle of federalism by rejecting claims of federal pre-emption.”

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law

  1. Perhaps the best thing is to shorten labor supply to the point of crops rotting in the fields. Let’s see who in the labor force born in the USA is willing to do this type of work for any fee…………. and watch the concerned conservative types see their precious $$$ lost to higher imported food prices and shortages. It would be interesting to see how much they would understand the consequences of their actions with this law.

  2. I would have no problem with this legislation if it was done in conjuction with ending ridiculously long unemployment benefits and welfare entitlements. No Americans will do these jobs because they don’t have too. This entitlement system is utterly demoralizing any kind of working spirit people have.

  3. This will be a nightmare. You think food prices are high now? They will more than double and probably be a shortage of food. Who will do the work? There needs to be reform. Inflation full steam ahead.

  4. This law targets this industry along with others that rely on low cost labor. Can you imagine if 1 bad manager at a Wal-Mart knowlingly had an illegal alien on staff and the state revoked their license? Big government is big government whether its driven by Republicans or Democrats, it’s still big government. This country is becoming a paranoid police state.

  5. I agree that illegal alien situation needs to be addressed. However, the answer is not to penalize the landscape, nurserys and garden centers, but to give these aliens some sort of legal working status. The groups that push this issue obviously don’t realize that there are very few American born citizens that will do these jobs. Plus the workers that are American citizens will be on unemployment when the businesses are forced to close. Let’s just dig ourselves deeper into the recession. Or better yet, why not turn it into a Depression!

  6. another way for the govt to squelch small business in the usa. when are the politicians going to learn to cooperate and realize these illegals do not wish to be us citizens but simply to be able to work here legally; ironic that most agiculture businesses are conservativly based but it is generally the republicans that are working againt us on immigration reform. one more reason for us to consider our elected officials worthless.

More From Labor...
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know About Aquaponics

Are you curious about expanding into aquaponics? From pest control to equipment, Bob and Jesse Kilgore of Brogue Hydroponics offer 10 factors you need to consider.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

Aquaponics Is Making A Splash At Brogue Hydroponics

The owners of Brogue Hydroponics explain why they expanded into aquaponics, and how the shift has helped them uncover a new market opportunity.

Read More

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 18, 2015

H-2B Situation Goes From Bad To Even Worse

On March 5, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will no longer accept or process H-2B labor certifications or requests for H-2B prevailing wage determinations in light of a March 4 decision. Shortly after the DOL announcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services followed suit, announcing it will at least temporarily cease approving visa petitions. These announcements essentially shut down the H-2B program for any company that has not completed the DHS H-2B visa petitioning process.

Read More

March 4, 2015

H-2B Cap Hit, Adding to Visa Program Woes

The H-2B visa cap for the first half of fiscal 2015 was hit late in January. As a result, some growers may not have access to the H-2B workers they need during the months ahead. The visa cap and resulting labor shortages will have impacts throughout the horticulture industry.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Immigration — Obama Acts Without Congress

On November 20, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration policy, which are already proving to be politically divisive, and many Republican legislators say this unilaterally "poisons the well" for reform. In AmericanHort's view, that dire prediction need not be the case.

Read More

November 17, 2014

USDA Names First Liaison For Veterans Interested In Agr…

The new Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison position will coordinate ongoing USDA support for active duty military and veterans.

Read More

September 26, 2014

GROW Perspective: Government Compliance Issues On The H…

Lack of focus on human resources can sink your ship

Read More

September 26, 2014

Great Things In Store For North Creek Nurseries

With a brand new greenhouse in the works and lean flow manufacturing boosting its bottom line, North Creek Nurseries ventures into a new era of growing for its customers.

Read More

September 11, 2014

Is Lean Flow The Competitive Edge You Need?

If you’re feeling worked to the bone, cramped for space or starved for profits, now is the time to look into lean flow.

Read More

July 22, 2014

Proposed Worker Protection Standard Changes You Need To…

The comment period for the proposed Worker Protection Standards ends on August 18, 2014. Find out how the proposed changes will affect your greenhouse operation.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 8, 2014

Consider Hiring Non-Traditional Growers To Secure Our I…

Your operation can benefit from hiring returning veterans, professionals changing careers and non-traditional students, in addition to horticulture graduates. Where have you had luck recruiting?

Read More
SAF Congressional Action Days 2014

February 20, 2014

Healthcare Law, Immigration Reform Are Top Priorities F…

The event, being held March 10-11 in Washington D.C., will bring together horticulture industry members to lobby members of Congress to revisit legislation that is important to the industry.

Read More

October 14, 2013

E-Verify Website Down During Government Shutdown

Recent visitors to the E-Verify website came face-to-face with the same message they see on other government sites: Closed.

Read More
Robin Siktberg

April 19, 2013

Speaking With One Voice On Immigration Reform (Opinion)

I am from a family that holds widely divergent political views that are hotly debated at gatherings. My mother was once chairwoman of our county’s Republican committee, and my father cast his first presidential vote for for Franklin Roosevelt. My husband and I have agreed not to put political signs in our yard — ever — because they would just cancel each other out. You get the picture. So, it was with a great deal of interest that I attended the Society of American Florists (SAF) Congresssional Action Days in March to see government in action. I’d been to Washington before, but only as a bystander, never as a participant. Despite the cliffs and sequesters, I still believe the process works — maybe not as well as we’d like right now, but more than ever, we, as citizens, need to make our voices heard. The briefings before the event and […]

Read More

April 16, 2013

Agriculture Agrees on Immigration Package

The struggle to achieve immigration reform took a giant step forward late Friday, when an agreement was finally reached on the framework for agriculture’s portion of the comprehensive immigration bill. The Senate “Gang of Eight” is drafting the bill, which may be introduced as early as Tuesday. “Society of American Florist (SAF) members who attended Congressional Action Days (CAD) and helped lobby for immigration reform can feel proud of their work,” says SAF’s Lin Schmale. “Keeping Congressional attention focused on floriculture’s needs will continue to be of critical importance. We are delighted that the negotiators have reached agreement, and commend them on achieving what is truly a great success!” After weeks of often very intense negotiations, agreement was reached Friday between the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), of which SAF is a member, the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the key senators involved in the process, on the details of agriculture’s […]

Read More

March 7, 2013

Anyone Can Automate [opinion]

Automation of production lines and greenhouses is typically thought of as something that is only an option for bigger growers, but that's not necessarily the case. Greenhouse Grower presents some realistic automation options for every size of operation.

Read More

February 22, 2013

Common Objections To Mechanization In The Greenhouse

The first thing I would say about automation is start somewhere. Even if you go with any type of sprinkler or overhead irrigation system that is stationary and not a boom system, start somewhere. Get your feet wet. Get comfortable with the fact that you are starting to rely more on machines and not people. One of the biggest hurdles we have is with small and medium size growers. They will say, “It’s going to make my growers lazy.” My response to that is, “At the end of the day, that’s a management problem. That’s not an equipment problem.” What you need to worry about when you get new machinery is making sure everyone understands why you are buying machinery. If the boom systems or any automated overhead irrigation systems are making your growers lazy, that’s not because of the grower. That’s because the grower is worried about his job. […]

Read More
SAF Members Bring Flower Power To Capitol Hill

February 22, 2013

Immigration Reform To Help Greenhouse Labor Issues

Right now The Society of American Florists is getting ready for Congressional Action Days. We ask our members to fly into Washington, D.C., and travel around the Hill, meeting with their specific members of Congress about the issues we think are most important to the industry right now. It gives our members an opportunity to carry their messages to their members of Congress. This is really important because you can say anything in Washington as a lobbyist, but it has to be backed up by the people out there running businesses. We are grateful for the people who come in and carry that message around the Hill. It is also a great opportunity for business owners to connect with their members of Congress. Lobbying For Immigration Issues One of the issues we will be taking to the Hill this year, as we have for the past ten or more years, […]

Read More

February 8, 2013

A Day In The Life Of Lobbying For Floriculture

ANLA’s Craig Regelbrugge is fighting for floriculture. As ANLA’s vice president for government relations and co-chair for the Agriculture Coalition For Immigration Reform, Regelbrugge is on the front line working toward policies that benefit our industry, such as immigration reform. So what’s his day like? Here’s a report from Washington D.C. on a day in the life of Craig Regelbrugge.  You can do your part by attending and supporting events like SAF’s Congressional Action Days, March 11-12, 2013, in Washington D.C. Here’s Regelbrugge’s report: After four years of trying to get a large boulder rolling uphill, there is motion and momentum. Now, it’s about directing that motion. And sustaining the momentum. Let me give you a quick ‘day-in-the-life’ description of the daily grind, and a few thoughts about the road ahead. • I awoke yesterday to a ‘Marketplace’ interview on NPR of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. He’s one of the […]

Read More

February 8, 2013

The State Of Labor In The Greenhouse Industry

Ask any grower for thoughts on the state of labor today and you are bound to get an earful. While some people blame government crackdowns on immigration, others point the finger at lazy, over privileged Americans who would prefer not to get their hands dirty. But, there is one thing everyone agrees on: It isn’t getting any better. Although organizations like the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and Society of American Florists (SAF) lobby year after year in favor of reforms to make it easier to hire foreign-born workers, the process is a slow one, and growers can’t afford to be shorthanded during peak production times. Some companies have implemented mechanization or automation to fill their employee gaps and lower payroll costs. Technology presents a viable option for those able to achieve a timely return on investment; however, it is easy to overinvest and rack up unnecessary debt. Operations […]

Read More