Supreme Court will hear appeal from business, civil liberties groups to employer sanctions law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is entering the nation's charged debate over immigration, agreeing to hear a challenge from business and civil liberties groups to an Arizona law that cracks down on employers who hire undocumented workers.

The justices on Monday accepted an appeal from the Chamber of Commerce, American Civil Liberties Union and others to a lower court ruling that upheld Arizona's law. The measure requires employers to verify the eligibility of prospective employees through a federal database called E-Verify and imposes sanctions on companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the measure into law in 2007. Napolitano now is Homeland Security secretary.

The law is separate from the recently adopted Arizona immigration law that is intended to drive illegal immigrants out of Arizona and also is being challenged as unconstitutional.

In the case under high court review, the chamber and ACLU argued that Arizona and other states that have imposed similar laws are overstepping their authority. Only Congress, they said, may legislate about immigration.

The Obama administration weighed in last month on the side of the chamber and ACLU, also arguing that federal immigration law trumps state efforts.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.

The federal law that created the E-Verify system in 1996 made it voluntary and sought to balance efforts to discourage illegal immigration with concerns about discrimination against all immigrants.

Argument will take place in the court term that begins in October.

The case is Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, 09-115.