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Protesters rally on the National Mall in Washington on Wednesday to press Congress for immigration reform. - 


JEREMY HOBSON: Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that's central to the debate over immigration. At issue is an Arizona law that punishes employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The law is being challenged by an unusual alliance including the Obama Administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ACLU.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.

JEFF TYLER: Under the Arizona law, when a company knowingly hires undocumented workers, it can have its business license suspended. Though, so far, Arizona has only gone after three employers.

Judy Gans tracks immigration policy at the University of Arizona. For many companies, she says the law is mostly an inconvenience. Like when new hires don't show up in the federal database known as e-Verify Gans says it can cost a company in terms of productivity.

JUDY GANS: They've now made someone an offer and that person isn't allowed to start working until the immigration status question has been cleared up. Meanwhile, the employer has to put the job on hold.

It gets more complicated for companies operating across state lines. Robin Conrad is with National Chamber Litigation -- the law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She says the inconsistencies between state laws are bad for business.

ROBIN CONRAD: The classic example is when Arizona mandates the use of e-verify and a state like Illinois prohibits the use of e-verify.

The high court's ruling will have implications for 44 states considering their own immigration policies.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace