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US Supreme Court Ruling Favors Legal Foreign Workers

In what is considered one of the most significant decisions on immigration law, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to punish employers who will knowingly hire unauthorized workers.

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US Supreme Court Ruling Favors Legal Foreign Workers
Posted on June 25, 2011

It has been noted that there has been an increase in the filing of working visas for skilled workers in the hospitality, healthcare and agriculture sectors, traditionally the industries with employers who look the other way and hire workers without complying with work verification laws.  

In a sense, it is good for foreign workers who can establish eligibility for a temporary work visa specifically the H-2B category.  

US Chief Justice John Roberts penned the decision concluding that “the portion of the Arizona law that allows the state to suspend or revoke business licenses was a ‘licensing law’ that is within State’s right and does not preempt federal law. Supreme Decision From the time it was introduced,  the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAW) attracted national interest and international attention. 

 Supporters and opponents of the Act agree that LAW is one of the toughest immigration enforcement measures to be passed by any state. In April 2010, a week after it was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a coalition of immigrant-rights and business groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit to prevent implementation of the act.

The opposing groups argued that LAW preempts provisions of two federal laws: the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) which requires employers to ensure that alien workers have employment authorization Opponents of LAW claim that the Arizona Act  “violated the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution which states in pertinent part that ”(N)o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In February 2008, the federal district court in Arizona dismissed the lawsuit challenging the Legal Arizona Workers Act. In 2009, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The case was elevated to the Supreme Court resulting in its May 26, 2011 against employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

Temporary Work Visas Used Faster Since

In 2009 and years before that, the temporary work visas for skilled and unskilled workers (under the H-2B category) rarely get used up for the first and second half of the year. 

In September 2009, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that about 25,000 more H-2B visas were left from the yearly 66,000 quota (33,000 for each of the first and second half of the year). In the same year, the Department of State received far fewer than expected requests for H-2B visas and as a result, has issued only 40,640 H-2B visa for the fiscal year 2009.  

In 2010, the number of H-2B petitions pending and approved were much more, showing that more US Employers filed H-2B petitions. The Supreme Court is seen by immigrant advocates as a boon to foreign workers seeking H-2B  viswas since US employers are now on notice that they are likely to be sanctioned (penalized and persecuted) if they hire undocumented or illegal aliens.

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