A federal appeals court Thursday refused to block a controversial Arizona law that shuts down businesses for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.
The action by the three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco clears the way for the statute to be enforced beginning Saturday.
In a brief order, the judges said that business and immigrant rights groups had not shown an adequate need for delaying enforcement of the law.
After the measure went into effect Jan. 1, county prosecutors said they would not file any cases until March 1 to allow the courts time to decide whether to issue the injunction. A trial court judge earlier this month found the law to be constitutional.
The 9th Circuit panel will consider that issue at hearings this spring but is not expected to rule for many months.
Passed by the Arizona Legislature, the law places on probation any company found to have knowingly hired an illegal immigrant.
If the company is found in violation of the law again, its business license is automatically revoked, ending its ability to operate in the state.
At least four other states are working on bills modeled after the Arizona law. Business groups have opposed the measure, warning that it would force them to discriminate against Latinos and drive them from Arizona. Some companies have said they will not expand in the state as long as the law remains in effect.
Farrell Quinlan, a spokesman for many of the business groups challenging the Arizona law, said in a statement that getting an injunction had been a long shot.
"We remain confident that when the appeals court considers the merits of our case, it will find the Arizona law unconstitutional on multiple grounds," he said.