Illegal immigrants who use fake Social Security numbers to get jobs were struck a blow this week by the Supreme Court.
The court ruled 5-4 that there is nothing in the nation’s immigration laws that prevent states from investigating and prosecuting immigrants who use fraudulent documents and numbers.
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States wanted clarification of their ability to prosecute law breakers in court or if that was the responsibility of the federal government which oversees the nation’s immigration laws.
The ruling was also a rebuke of the liberal Kansas Supreme Court which had previously ruled that the federal government had sole authority concerning prosecuting immigrants. The Kansas court had thrown out state convictions for three immigrants, but the high court reversed the state ruling, in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. “The mere fact that state laws like the Kansas provisions at issue overlap to some degree with federal criminal provisions does not even begin to make a case for” the state having to forgo prosecution, Alito wrote.
Kansas prosecuted the cases at issue by relying on information that is on a required federal work authorization form, the I-9. Kansas was backed by the Trump administration and 12 states in arguing that it can prosecute because the same information also appears on state work forms.
In 2012, the court ruled that portions of an Arizona law targeting immigrants without proper legal documents could not be enforced because federal law trumps state measures in the area of immigration. The three immigrants in the Kansas case contended that the high court’s Arizona decision should have determined the outcome in their situation.
In a dissent for the four liberal members of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that federal law “makes clear that only the federal government may prosecute people for misinterpreting their federal work-authorization status.”