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9th Circuit upholds Arizona immigration law

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Indiana lawmakers who want to pass legislation targeting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants got ammunition from a federal appellate court ruling in California.

In a 26-page unanimous ruling Wednesday in Chicanos Por La Causa Inc., et al. v. Janet Napolitano, et al., No. 07-17272, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a lower court's ruling rejecting a facial challenge to Arizona's law allowing the state to use licensing laws to enforce immigration-related policies.

The three-judge panel held that state governments can properly enact sanctions that could take away licenses of employers who hire illegal workers and that the statute gives employers an adequate opportunity to defend themselves in a court hearing.

Although it upheld the law, the court pointed out that no businesses have been prosecuted in the nearly nine months since the law's been in effect, and that means future challenges may not be controlled by the decision depending on the facts of those cases.

This ruling gives a boost to Indiana lawmakers, who used that Arizona law as a model in crafting their own legislation during the 2008 session. That bill failed to gain enough support, but Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, hopes to introduce similar legislation during the 2009 session, and he praised the 9th Circuit ruling.

In preparation of the new legislative session, the Interim Study Committee on Immigration Issues is currently studying those issues and has brought law professors and legal experts to testify about the differences between state and federal immigration laws. At its first meeting Sept. 9, experts indicated there was no guarantee a state law would stand up in federal court - something that may now be more debatable following the 9th Circuit's decision.

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