If a recent ruling is any indication, federal judges may not look kindly on any immigration laws enacted by state or local governments. For employers, that means continued uncertainty over how to handle foreign workers.
A federal judge recently declared unconstitutional a little-known Georgia immigration law that's been on the books for 68 years. The State Alien Statute forbids state government units from employing "any alien for any purpose until a thorough investigation has been made and it is ascertained that there is no qualified American citizen available to perform the duty desired."
Apparently, the old law caught the attention of the Glynn County Board of Education, which used it in deciding not to renew two Jamaican teachers' contracts.
The teachers sued, claiming only the federal government had jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization. Once the feds authorize noncitizens to work, they argued, a state law can't take away that right. Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo ruled the law was too broad and denied legal aliens equal protection. Damages are pending.
It remains to be seen if the new Georgia Immigration Compliance Act, set to take effect in 2007, can withstand constitutional scrutiny.