De Canas v. Bica
424 U.S. 351 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

De Canas v. Bica, 424 U.S. 351 (1976)

De Canas v. Bica

No. 74-882

Argued December 16, 1975

Decided February 25, 1976

424 U.S. 351

Syllabus

Section 2805(a) of the California Labor Code, which prohibits an employer from knowingly employing an alien who is not entitled to lawful residence in the United States if such employment would have an adverse effect on lawful resident workers, held not to be unconstitutional as a regulation of immigration or as being preempted under the Supremacy Clause by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Pp. 424 U. S. 354-365.

(a) Standing alone, the fact that aliens are the subject of a state statute does not render it a regulation of immigration. Even if such local regulation has some purely speculative and indirect impact on immigration, it does not thereby become a constitutionally proscribed regulation of immigration that Congress itself would be powerless to authorize or approve. Pp. 424 U. S. 354-356.

(b) Preemption on the basis of congressional intent to "occupy the field," and thereby invalidate even harmonious state regulation, is not required in this case either because "the nature of the regulated subject matter permits no other conclusion" or because "Congress has unmistakably so ordained" that result. Florida Lime & Avocado Growers v. Paul,373 U. S. 132, 373 U. S. 142. Section 2805(a) is clearly within a State's police power to regulate the employment relationship so as to protect workers within the State, and it will not be presumed that Congress, in enacting the INA, intended to oust state authority to regulate the employment relationship covered by § 2805(a) in a manner consistent with pertinent federal laws, absent any showing of such intent either in the INA's wording or legislative history or in its comprehensive scheme for regulating immigration and naturalization. Rather than there being evidence that Congress "has unmistakably . . . ordained" exclusivity of federal regulation in the field of employment of illegal aliens, the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act, whose provisions prohibiting farm labor contractors from employing illegal aliens, were enacted to supplement state action, is persuasive evidence that the INA should not be taken as legislation expressing Congress' judgment to have uniform federal regulations

Page 424 U. S. 352

in matters affecting employment of illegal aliens, and therefore barring state legislation such as § 2805(a). Hines v. Davidowitz,312 U. S. 52; Pennsylvania v. Nelson,350 U. S. 497, distinguished. Pp. 424 U. S. 356-363.

(c) It is for the California courts to construe § 2805(a), and then to decide in the first instance whether and to what extent § 2805(a), as construed, is unconstitutional as conflicting with the INA or other federal laws or regulations. Pp. 424 U. S. 363-365.

40 Cal.App.3d 976, 115 Cal.Rptr. 444, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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