Guest Blog by Scott Blaney

The tide of state immigration laws in Arizona appears to have ebbed. On March 17, 2011, the Arizona State Senate voted down five controversial bills aimed at controlling illegal immigration in the state. The Senate’s rejection of the bills came just two days after 50 Chief Executive Officers in Arizona sent a joint letter to Senate President Russell Pearce urging the Arizona Legislature to back off from efforts to regulate immigration at the state level.

The latest bills follow the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act (“LAWA”) and the 2010 Senate Bill 1070, both of which put Arizona at the forefront of states seeking to regulate immigration within their borders. The LAWA was one of the first state-level bills to mandate that businesses use the federal E-Verify system to verify work eligibility of all new hires on or after January 1, 2008. Challenges to the law have been unsuccessful to date and the law is currently under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal court blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s other high-profile immigration law, the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” or SB 1070, such as its mandate that police officers check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. See “Arizona Governor Signs Controversial Immigration Bill Into Law.” Passions run high on both sides of the SB 1070 debate and SB 1070 may find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well.

The five bills defeated in March sought to regulate immigration in a number of ways. For example, SB 1405 would have required hospitals to inquire into an individual’s immigration status and notify law enforcement if an immigration violation was suspected. SB 1407 would have required school districts to collect data on the number of illegal immigrant students attending classes. SB 1611 covered a number of different areas, such as access to universities and colleges, and would have made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to drive a vehicle in Arizona.

The effects the rejected bills might have had on the workplace are not as direct as under the LAWA, but the underlying message is clear. Arizona and similar states will continue to seek ways to curtail illegal immigration. Employers must remain both informed of their obligations and vigilant in their compliance efforts.