Earth Notes
1:54 am
Wed March 8, 2006

Should biz be penalized for hiring illegals?

Phoenix, AZ – The measure is nowhere near as far reaching as had
originally been proposed. Rep. Russell Pearce admitted
he had to dilute some provisions to make it more
acceptable to the business community. For example,
there is an escape clause which says companies cannot
be penalized if they comply with state and federal
hiring laws. Also gone are provisions to automatically
revoke the license of companies with three illegal
hiring offenses within one year, and another which
would have allowed employees who are laid off to sue
companies if undocumented workers remain on the
payroll. But Pearce said what remains is significant,
including requirements for state and local agencies
that issue business licenses to audit companies to see
if they are getting around the law. And he said it is
fair.

(We're not trying to sneak up on anybody. We want to go
after those that intentionally violate the law,
knowingly violate the law. And so we'll put into place
a fair mechanism to make sure those that are doing what
is expected and those that are doing what the law
requires aren't abused. At the same time, those that
are fudging and cheating, that we have the tools to go
after them. And that bill does that. It's very
comprehensive.)

The legislation subjects first-time offenders to fines
of at least $2,000 per undocumented worker; companies
with three offenses within a year would pay a minimum
of $6,000 per offense, with a mandatory year in jail
for violators. Approval came over the objections of
House Democrats. That includes many who complained in
prior years that the Republican-controlled Legislature
was busy attacking illegal immigrants while doing
nothing about the companies that lured them here with
jobs. For example, last year Rep. Pete Rios complained
when GOP lawmakers stripped one bill of provisions
which would have sanctioned companies that hired
illegal aliens. Rios said at the time it ignores the
role businesses play in the problem of illegal
immigration.

(They have yet to step up to the plate and assume any
responsibility. They might as well just walk up and
down the border with a sign that says, hiring today,
come on over.)

But on Tuesday Rios refused to support this employer
sanctions bill, saying he feared discrimination.

(We're all going to be painted with the same broad
brush. And I fear employer sanctions because I see
employer sanctions discriminating against many Mexican
Americans. Because employers are going to be hesitant
about employing somebody that looks like they may be an
immigrant.)

Rep. Ben Miranda also complained last year about the
lack of employer sanctions, saying a message needs to
be sent to companies that they cannot keep hiring
undocumented workers and presume they have no
responsibility. On Tuesday, though, Miranda opposed the
bill saying he's not convinced the legislation would
hit major employers.

(There's absolutely no guarantee, Howie, that this
legislation is going to start with the Marriott's of
the world, the Denny's of the world. It's Jose's Taco
Stand that's going to be impacted, it's the bakery shop
that's going to be impacted, it's the small one-time
owner of a gasoline station that's going to be
impacted, it's car washes that are going to be
impacted.)

The position of the legislative Democrats could put
them at odds with Gov. Janet Napolitano. In her state
of the state speech in January, the Democratic governor
specifically called for sanctions against companies
that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. A final roll
call vote later this week will send this measure to the
Senate. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is
Howard Fischer.