UPDATE 2009.04.14 10 a.m.: Here’s coverage in two local newspapers:
Columbia County’s illegal worker law – approved by the voters last fall as Initiative 5-190 and then implemented by the county Board of Comissioners as Ordinance 2008-6 – was struck down this morning by Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove. He issued a brief, two-page ruling, in response to legal challenges against the ordinance and the intiative.
Grove stated that the law violated the Federal Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1983 by mandating fines against employers found to have knowingly or deliberately employed illegal workers. The federal law states, in part, “The provisions of this section preempt any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing or similar laws) upon those who employ or recruit or refer for a fee employment, unauthorized aliens.”
Grove also ruled that the initiative improperly referred appeals of a prosecution under the initiative to a justice court rather than the Oregon Court of Appeals, violating state law. Finally, he ruled that a provision calling for violators to have business licenses and building permits suspended or revoked, and to have stop work orders issued at their job sites, also overstepped legal bounds. Grove summarized his ruling as follows:
“The actions required are more than mere conditions associated with issuance of licenses. They rise to the level of civil or criminal sanctions which also have been preempted by Federal Law. The essence of the initiative and the enabling ordinance is to sanction non-conforming employers with a fine and suspension of licenses beyond those issued by the county, thus rising to the level of civil or criminal sanctions. In addition, the initiative attempts to place the enforcement of these sanctions with entities and utilizes procedures that are in conflict with statutory authority.”
Business and civil rights groups – along with opponents of illegal and in some cases legal immigration – have been following the legal challenge closely. If the law had passed legal muster, many expected to see it proposed in other Oregon counties. Now that it has been struck down, many will still be watching to see what happens next. Supporters of the initiative may decide to pursue an appeal.