In effect, the three-judge panel in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said states can use licensing laws to enforce federal immigration policies, the Arizona Republic reported Thursday.
The rejection upheld a law passed nine months ago by the State of Arizona and was expected, said Dave Jones, head of the Arizona Contractors Association, which was one of the plaintiffs in the suit.
"I didn't hear anything from the three judges that encouraged me to think they'd rule in our favor," Jones told the Republic.
Kristina Campbell, an attorney representing another plaintiff, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said the plaintiffs -- made up of businesses and civil rights groups -- would appeal again, seeking a review with a larger panel of federal judges.
In the ruling, the judges noted the challenge failed to test a specific case, as no employer has yet been sanctioned by the Arizona law.
The case was brought "against a blank factual background of enforcement and outside the context of any particular case," the judges wrote.