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Supreme Court sides with Kansas in undocumented immigrants case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a federal immigration law does not preempt Kansas state prosecutions of three undocumented immigrants for identity theft. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a federal immigration law does not preempt Kansas state prosecutions of three undocumented immigrants for identity theft. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

March 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of Kansas in a case about enforcing the state's identity theft laws against undocumented immigrants.

At issue, was the case of Ramiro Garcia, who used another person's Social Security number to get a job at a restaurant, and two other people who did the same, and were convicted under state identity theft law. In particular, Garcia's lawyers argued he could not be convicted under state law because the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 preempts it. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed and threw out all three convictions.

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In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held Tuesday that the three convictions were not preempted by federal law, reversing the lower court's decision. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, which Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh joined.

Tuesday's decision was not only a win for the state, but it was also a win for President Donald Trump's administration, which supported Kansas in the case.

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"Kansas' prosecutions," Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in briefs, "neither invade a federally occupied field nor conflict with Congress' purposes" in passing the federal law.

Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stephen Breyer in the dissent.

It's already a federal crime for an employee to put a false Social Security number on an I-9 work authorization form, and the dissent said the IRCA preempts the state from using tax-withholding forms to "police" the matter.

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"By permitting these prosecutions, the majority opens a colossal loophole," Breyer wrote in the dissent. "Starting a new job almost always involves filling out tax-withholding forms alongside an I-9. So unless they want to give themselves away, people hoping to hide their federal work-authorization status from their employer will put the same false information on their tax withholding forms as they do on their I-9. To let the states prosecute such people for the former is, in practical effect, to let the states police the latter. And policing the latter is what the Act expressly forbids."

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