Judge says immigration law is most likely unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Robin Cauthron has granted an injunction and delayed enforcement of employer-related portions of an Oklahoma immigration law because it is "substantially likely" the law's provisions are unconstitutional, interfering with federal regulation of the employment of unauthorized workers.

The law requires employers doing business with the state to use the "Basic Pilot Program," or "E-Verify," which is the federal government’s voluntary experimental program for electronically verifying work eligibility; the program is said to contain errors. Sanctions include increased tax rates, loss of contracts and being vulnerable to litigation if an employer "should have known" an employee was unauthorized to work.

"We applaud the court's decision to delay enforcing these portions of Oklahoma's immigration law," says Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, which represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the litigation. "Through harsh civil penalties, the Oklahoma law unfairly shifts the burden of immigration enforcement from government onto the backs of businesses. Piecemeal state legislation is not the answer to the U.S.'s immigration problems."

Conrad emphasizes the need for comprehensive immigration reform, saying U.S. businesses have been overwhelmed by conflicting state and local immigration laws; in 2007, more than 240 employer-related immigration bills were introduced by at least 45 states.

Co-plaintiffs for the case include The State Chamber of Oklahoma, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, Oklahoma Restaurant Association and Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association. A final judgment is pending.

Date : 6/5/2008