Update (July 3, 2017): In the original post, below, we pondered the conundrum of Anibal Sanchez, who testified that he was an illegal immigrant in the context of his workers’ compensation retaliation lawsuit against his former employer, Dahlke Trailer Sales. Sanchez’s admission put his employer in a tough spot.
Sanchez was suing Dahlke seeking reinstatement but, under federal law, Dahlke would be subject to civil and criminal liability for reinstating Sanchez. In the original post, we questioned whether the Court of Appeals had “side-stepped” this conflict. This past week, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the intermediate court of appeals got it right. There was, however, a strong dissent by Justice Anderson, joined by Chief Justice Gildea and Justice Stras.
For whatever it’s worth, we think the case is an extraordinarily difficult one but the majority, in our view got it right. While the dissent is correct that the employer’s obligations under the federal law and the state law are irreconcilable as a practical matter, the majority is correct that subjecting employers to the state law arguably (if paradoxically) supports rather than undermines the federal law because it gives a disincentive to hiring illegal immigrants.
The Minnesota Supreme Court majority’s decision is convoluted and it will be unpersuasive to many. This is paradoxically appropriate. Our country’s immigration policy is an incomprehensible M.C. Escherian funhouse of mirrors, trap-doors, ladders, stairs, improvised invisible walls promised but never to be built. Under the circumstances, it seems fitting that employers should be prohibited by law from knowingly employing illegal immigrants but required by law to treat them fairly when they do.