Appeals court upholds Arizona immigration law

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PHOENIX - A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld an Arizona law that penalizes businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants and requires them to verify the employment status of their workers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision rejected a challenge by business and Hispanic groups that contend that the law infringes on federal immigration powers.

The law, intended to lessen the economic incentive for immigrants to sneak into the country, imposes civil penalties on employers by suspending or revoking their business licenses when they are found to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

While it upheld the law, a three-judge panel of the court left the door open for other challenges to the law, saying a case hasn't yet been filed in the nine months since it took effect. The court said future challenges will not be controlled by its decision.

Jonathan Weissglass, a lawyer for the challengers, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment late Wednesday morning.

Lawyers for the state argue that while a similar federal hiring law prevents states from imposing civil or criminal penalties against businesses for illegal hirings, the federal law lets states take licensing actions against violators. The appellate court agreed with that argument.

Even though no employer sanctions cases have been pressed in court, the law has prompted or contributed to an unknown number of illegal immigrants leaving Arizona for their home countries or other states.

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