Yesterday, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed two laws targeting undocumented workers, including one that is closely modeled on an Arizona law recently upheld by the Supreme Court:
No person, either for himself or on behalf of another, shall employ, hire, recruit, or refer, for private or public employment within the state, an alien who is not entitled to lawfully reside or work in the United States. [...] For a third or subsequent violation, the appropriate local governing authority or licensing agency shall immediately suspend the violator’s permit or license to do business in the state for not less than thirty days nor more than six months and a fine shall be assessed that shall be not more than one thousand two thousand five hundred dollars for each alien employed, hired, recruited, or referred in violation of this Section.
Although the Court’s very recent decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting permits Louisana to strip away business licenses from companies that hire undocumented workers, the state’s attempt to fine employers unambiguously violates federal law. Under a doctrine known as “preemption,” Congress may invalidate state laws which conflict with a federal policy, and federal immigration law preempts “any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ…unauthorized aliens.”
Although Whiting held that the express exemption for “licensing and similar laws” allows states to enact a law which strips business licenses from companies that employ undocumented workers, the exemption only applies to licensing laws and not to general fines for business that employ immigrants. Any attempt to fine businesses in order to regulate their employment of undocumented workers is a clear violation of federal law.