Arizona treats Mexicans like Nazi Germany treated the Jews


Frequently asked questions

Legal Arizona Workers Act 101
Dec. 30, 2007 02:56 PM

Frequently asked questions about
the Legal Arizona Workers Act:

Legal Arizona Workers Act 101: Q&A introduction

What is the law?
Who is affected?
Who enforces it?

What about frivolous complaints?
What are the penalties?
What does it cost?
How do I register for E-Verify?

What do I need to check a new hire on E-Verify?
What is the legal challenge?
What is unclear about the law?

Where can I get more information?


Legal Arizona Workers Act 101
Dec. 30, 2007 02:40 PM

Reporter Ronald J. Hansen has compiled the basics on Arizona's new employer-sanctions law, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

If you have additional questions about the law or want to offer comments appropriate for publication, e-mail Hansen at


What is the law?
Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 30, 2007 02:40 PM

The sanctions law, known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act, is intended to ensure that no businesses in Arizona knowingly or intentionally hire or employ illegal immigrants.

Beginning Jan. 1, all business owners in Arizona risk losing their state and local licenses if they knowingly or intentionally — the law makes a distinction between “knowingly” and “intentionally” — employ undocumented workers after that date. Licenses can be suspended for 10 days or longer for a first offense and revoked altogether for a second offense.

Employers are required to check the legal status of their new hires using E-Verify, a free online federal program that checks names and identification documents to ensure that new employees are eligible to work. They are also accountable for the eligibility of existing workers, under the law.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has said his office is concerned primarily with new hires, but could pursue claims against existing workers as well.

The law also sharpens the punishment for identity theft, a crime frequently associated with illegal workers.

It is now aggravated identity theft, a felony, to possess the identity information of someone else to seek work or to have such information for three or more people without their consent.

Under the law, it doesn't matter whether the information is for an actual person or a bogus identity.


Who is affected?

The sanctions law applies to every employer in Arizona regardless of the size of the business.

Employers face mandatory suspension of their state- and local-issued business licenses for a first offense and permanent license revocation for a second one.

Under the law, each business location seems to be treated separately from its corporate cousins. This means that if a franchise with a violation at one location faces a shutdown, others with separate licenses are not affected unless they also are found to have knowingly employed illegal workers.

However, many business owners with multiple locations share business licenses for tax and legal reasons. This means that those businesses that operate under a single license as one corporate entity face a shutdown at all their sites.

The law doesn't punish undocumented workers but does require state authorities to contact federal immigration officials about them. Typically, this could lead to prosecution or deportation.

Who is not affected?

The law does not apply to consumers. This means those who pay someone for business services, such as yard work, are not legally liable under the sanctions law.


Who enforces it?

The state's 15 county attorneys are primarily responsible for enforcing the sanctions law.

The state attorney general can investigate cases but must refer them to the local county attorney for legal action.

County attorneys must investigate any alleged violation unless it is determined to be frivolous. After receiving a complaint, the county attorney must check on the legal status of the workers by inquiring with federal authorities.

The county attorneys cannot try to independently determine a worker's legal status.

If the complaint appears to have merit, the county attorney must contact local police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the suspected violators.

Although federal authorities may pursue their own immigration-related actions against the worker or the employer, the county attorney must go to Superior Court to formally resolve the licensing matter for the business.

In all cases, an employee's actual legal working status is based on a determination by the federal government for that person.

This means Arizona's judges primarily consider whether a business owner knowingly intended to employ a worker the federal government already has determined is illegal.

The sanctions law is intended to be treated as a law-enforcement priority.

Prosecutors, for example, are ordered to review every complaint. The superior courts are ordered to put the sanction cases on a fast-track. And the attorney general must compile a public database of employers who violate the sanctions law.

However, law-enforcement officials have said that the law includes little budget support for these new obligations.


What about frivolous complaints?

Anyone can make a complaint about suspected violations, but authorities have stressed that it should have a reasonable basis. They want to avoid discriminatory complaints that are based on a general suspicion because, for example, workers don't speak English or aren't White.

Making a frivolous complaint to authorities is a misdemeanor crime. A conviction could carry up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.


What are the penalties?

The sanctions law effectively gives the licensing “death penalty” to businesses that are caught twice knowingly keeping illegal immigrants on the payroll.

First offenses are more complicated.

Business licenses are suspended for up to 10 days or at least 10 days for a first offense, depending on the circumstances.

The difference between “knowingly” and “intentionally” hiring an illegal worker is a legal determination that an employer not only knew an employee wasn't permitted to work in this country but intended to have an illegal worker on the payroll.

Violators who “knowingly” hire can have their business licenses suspended up to 10 days for a first offense.

Violators who “intentionally” hire must have their licenses suspended for at least 10 days. The law does not specify the maximum suspension for a first offense for intentional violations.

In both types of cases, Superior Court judges will determine the length of the suspension and base it on a variety of factors, including: how long the business had employed someone illegally; whether the business had any prior misconduct; and the degree of harm caused by the violation.

For both types of violations, employers must terminate all their illegal employees and file an affidavit within three business days swearing not to hire illegal workers again.

First-time offenders are placed on probation and must file quarterly reports to the county attorney on each new employee they hire at that location during their supervision.

For those with knowing violations, probation lasts three years. Intentional violators face five years of probation.


What does it cost?

It is unclear what the sanctions law actually will cost the state's 150,000 businesses or its government agencies.

The cost to business owners will largely depend on how sizable their operations are.

E-Verify, the federal online program that checks an employee's legal work status, is a free program available to employers and is required for new hires under the sanctions law.

Federal authorities say checking names on E-Verify is a process that usually takes no longer than a few minutes per name. Using the program for new hires gives business the presumption of trying to not hire illegal workers.

Some large-scale business owners have said that the process has forced them to create positions just to ensure compliance with the state law. Some small-business groups have said the law will force the smallest employers to get computers and go online, an expense that cuts into their already-thin margins.

There are also third-party businesses known as designated agents that can handle employment-verification services for employers, including E-Verify checks and processing I-9 forms.

Legislators budgeted $2.6 million this fiscal year to prosecutors for enforcement and to notify business owners of the law change.

The money breaks down this way:

In October, the state's Department of Revenue had $70,000 to mail notices of the new law to businesses.

The state's attorney general receives $100,000 to help enforce the law and maintain a database of violations throughout the year.

The Maricopa County attorney receives $1.43 million and Pima County's gets $500,000 for enforcement needs.

The other 13 county attorneys divide $500,000.

The law requires prosecutors to contact local police authorities and federal immigration officials about suspected illegal workers, which could strain their budgets if it leads to widespread arrests.

It is hoped that the law will lead illegal workers to leave before enforcement is necessary, keeping costs relatively low.

Even so, the state law figures to keep federal authorities busy. Demand for the E-Verify system is growing rapidly because it is expected that all Arizona businesses will have to register for it or contract with someone who does.

Meanwhile, other states have passed laws that encourage using E-Verify.


How do I register for E-Verify?

Registering for E-Verify, the federal online database that checks employment eligibility, can be done through the Web site for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at

Click on the E-Verify logo and follow the links to E-Verify registration.

The program is free, but companies may need to develop software that works with the database.

The government offers toll-free assistance in completing the registration process for E-Verify. Call 888-464-4218.

Before using the program, an employer, or someone authorized by the employer, must sign a memorandum of understanding that outlines the terms of service.

A key requirement is that E-Verify can be used only for new hires within three business days of their start date. It cannot be legally used to consider whether to hire someone or to screen existing employees.

Also, the program checks only employment eligibility. It does not reflect a worker's immigration status.

Third-party businesses known as designated agents can automate or take over the I-9 documentation and E-Verify process for employers who would rather not learn the program. Some of these businesses handle other human resources issues as well.


What do I need to check a new hire on E-Verify?

Using E-Verify largely requires the same documents that businesses have relied on for checking employment eligibility in the past. The system does require posting formal notice to employees and providing certain documents for those whose eligibility is not immediately confirmed.

According to the Web site for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, employers need from their new worker:

  • Their full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Citizenship status
  • Type of documentation provided for I-9 form
  • Proof of identity with expiration date

In addition, employers must post a notice that they use the E-Verify system.

Immigration Services officials say about 93 percent of names are immediately verified as eligible to work in the U.S. Most of those who are not verified are because data was entered incorrectly or differs from information on file with the Social Security Administration.

Frequently, the differences involve legal name changes that were not recorded, or immigration or citizenship status changes that were not shared with the Social Security Administration.

If a worker's information is considered a mismatch by E-Verify, employers must notify the employee and provide a document that outlines their options for appeal and contact information for doing so. They cannot immediately fire the employee.

Workers who are not verified have eight federal business days to formally challenge the mismatch. Federal officials say most challenges are resolved within a day.


What is the legal challenge?

An alliance of business owners and immigrant-rights groups has filed a pair of related federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the state's sanctions law.

Those challenging the law argue that it requires businesses to participate in E-Verify, an online federal program that checks names and identification documents in an effort to ensure new employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Since 1986, the federal government has required only that private employers maintain paper identification records, known as I-9 forms, for new hires.

Opponents of the state's new law say it improperly overrides federal immigration and employment rules and can lead to workplace discrimination by those trying to follow it. The state maintains the law affects only business licensing, an area it is entitled to regulate.

In the first case, U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that the business groups incorrectly sued only the governor and attorney general. That case is being appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In the second case — which added the state's 15 county prosecutors — Wake denied a request to keep the law temporarily from going into effect on Jan.1.

The Appeals Court declined to rule on an appeal of that before Jan. 1, clearing the way for the law to go into effect as originally scheduled.

On Jan. 16, Wake is scheduled to hold a hearing in the second case to determine whether the law is constitutionally valid. Meanwhile, prosecutors have said no enforcement actions will be taken before Feb. 1, though investigations can begin.

Regardless of Wake's eventual decision, the losing side is expected to appeal. That would send the second case to the Appeals Court, too.

Given the flood of immigration-related laws sweeping the country and the questions of constitutional law and the boundaries of state's rights they raise, it is possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could choose to hear the Arizona case or a similar one elsewhere that could settle the matter.

In all, the legal process could take months to resolve.


What is unclear about the law?

What is unclear about the law?


For starters, the E-Verify system at the heart of the law is scheduled to end in November 2008. Congress needs to extend E-Verify to make Arizona's law even sustainable.

And lawyers have raised several issues that would seem to cloud even the simplest assumptions about the law.

For example, the law makes it a crime to file frivolous complaints about businesses, but lawyers say there is no standard to determine what “frivolous” means.

Also, the standard for opening an investigation could be different across the state.

The Maricopa County attorney has said his office will accept anonymous complaints. The other 14 county attorneys in the state have said they will require names with complaints.

The state requires Superior Court judges to rely on the federal government to determine whether an employee is actually illegal. But it is unclear whether that determination is based on a formal hearing with legal due process for the worker or simply relies on other sources, such as E-Verify, an electronic system known to occasionally make mistakes. Even the punishment phase of the law raises procedural questions.

For example, employers with a violation are required to dismiss all of their illegal workers. But the law doesn't spell out how they should know who those workers are.

The E-Verify system can't be used for existing employees; only new hires. This presumably leaves businesses relying on the I-9 paperwork system, which the federal government stopped regularly auditing in 2000.

And using E-Verify properly seems to be at odds with some of the rules for filling out I-9 documents, business lawyers say.

For example, federal rules do not require making copies of the documents used to complete I-9 forms, but do say that if an employer keeps some documents, they must keep documents for all employees.

Yet E-Verify's photo tool requires making copies of federally issued immigrant photo IDs.

Further complicating the matter, third-party businesses that offer employment-verification services do not yet need to use the photo tool. This suggests it is less stringent for employers to use a designated agent to verify an immigrant worker rather than employers checking for themselves.


Where can I get more information?

For more information on Arizona's new employer-sanctions law:

  • The Arizona Legislature's Web site provides information about the law's history as a bill.
  • Here you can read the text of the law.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides information about E-Verify. You can learn more about the program or sign up for it by going to USCIS
  • Creative Business Resources, a human resources outsourcing company, operates a Web site intended to provide information about the law and how businesses must comply.
  • The group Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform operates a site with information about the legal challenge to the law provided by those who are suing to overturn it.
  • • The American Civil Liberties Union is also among the groups suing to overturn the Arizona law and other illegal immigrant-related laws and ordinances nationwide.


Sanctions law begins Tuesday

Many Ariz. businesses are still unprepared

Daniel González The Arizona Republic Dec. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

The starting bell for Arizona's new employer-sanctions law is about to toll.

After surviving two court challenges, the law punishing businesses that knowingly employ illegal workers goes into effect in two days.

And still, many businesses are not ready.

As of Friday, 9,062 employers in Arizona had signed up for E-Verify. That is just about 6 percent of the approximately 150,000 employers in Arizona. Some don't know about the law. Others are procrastinating. Some plan to use outside services that check workers' status for a fee. Some are waiting to sign up until they need to hire workers, while still others would prefer to remain willfully blind about which workers are legal and which are not.

The state sanctions law is the toughest in the nation. It is aimed at turning off the job magnet that has drawn more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants to Arizona. In addition to punishing businesses for knowingly employing illegal workers, the measure requires employers to use a federal online computer program known as E-Verify to check the work eligibility of all new employees hired after Jan. 1.

The requirement is the most sweeping change Arizona's 150,000 employers will face under the law and one that employers have been slow to warm up to as businesses groups and local officials wrangle over the law's constitutionality and enforcement.

There is no penalty for not signing up for E-Verify, but employers that use the program are given a stronger defense against being accused of knowingly or intentionally employing illegal workers, said Jay Zweig, a Phoenix employment lawyer who advises businesses about the program.

"If you use it, you have a 'rebuttable presumption' that the employee is legally authorized to work," Zweig said.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says he will begin investigating complaints of illegal hiring immediately. But it could be months before any business is charged with violating the law because it will be difficult to prove that an employer knowingly hired illegal workers.

Not signing up

The sanctions law has survived two court challenges so far. On Dec. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake tossed out the first lawsuit on a technicality. A hearing on the merits of the second lawsuit by business groups that claim the sanctions law is unconstitutional is scheduled for Jan. 16 in U.S. District Court, and a ruling from that hearing is expected by the end of January.

Many employers have been waiting to see whether the sanctions law survives legal challenges before signing up out of fear that E-Verify will be costly to use, onerous and error-prone, say business groups and lawyers.

Last year, a congressional audit found that 4 percent of the time E-Verify, then called the Basic Pilot Program, initially labeled workers ineligible for employment when in fact they had work authorization. That means that one in 25 times a name is wrongly rejected by the program.

A September report by the private research company Westat Corp. found that the error rate for naturalized citizens was even higher. Nearly 10 percent of naturalized citizens are deemed ineligible to work at first, when in fact they are eligible, the report said.

Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the program's accuracy has improved. She said E-Verify is free and easy to use.

There was a small rush on the system at the end of last week, as about 840 new employers signed up Thursday and Friday.

Others see no reason to sign up until they are ready to hire new employees. Or they are contracting with third-party firms that use E-Verify to do employment verification checks for them for a fee. Some simply remain unaware of the new requirements.

But there also is an underlying reason why so many employers still haven't signed up, though few may admit it: They don't want to know which workers are legal or illegal.

"To those employers who want to remain willfully blind to illegal hiring, E-Verify is an enemy, but to the taxpayers of Arizona who bear the economic costs of illegal immigrants, E-Verify is good," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, one of the Legislature's main supporters of the sanctions law.

Some business advocates and economists agree that many employers are reluctant to use E-Verify because screening out illegal workers will cut off a major source of labor, especially in industries that depend heavily on immigrant labor, such as the construction, restaurant, manufacturing and service industries.

The problem is not illegal immigration; it's too few immigrant-worker visas to meet labor demands of the state's expanding economy, they say.

"I think many employers are scared of finding out who is here illegally," said Steve Chucri, president if the Arizona Restaurant and Hospitality Association, which is part of the consortium challenging the sanctions law in court. Illegal workers make up 10 to 12 percent of the state's workforce, according to the Pew Hispanic Center and the Center for Immigration Studies.

The hiring process

Not having a tough sanctions law in place has allowed employers to meet labor needs and still remain in compliance with federal immigration laws, said Dawn McLaren, a research economist at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

In the past, many undocumented immigrants were able to use fake documents to find work. Under federal law, employers are required to accept the documents so long as they appear valid.

"This has allowed them to not 'knowingly' hire illegal workers," McLaren said.

Supporters of a legal workforce and the sanctions law contend that undocumented immigrants take jobs from Americans and drive down wages. The say that businesses that use illegal workers have an edge over those not using illegal labor because the former can often avoid costs for insurance and taxes and pay lower wages.

But some economists say rather than take jobs from Americans, illegal immigrants are filling gaps in the state's workforce created by a surplus of jobs. The state's unemployment rate remains among the lowest in the nation. It climbed to 4.1 percent in November after bottoming out at 3.3 percent in September, a 40-year low, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

As a result, businesses in many low-skilled industries have had a hard time finding enough workers, turning instead to immigrant workers to fill jobs, McLaren said.

Under the sanctions law, employers will be required to run the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information of new hires through the federal government's E-Verify program.

New law strict

Although several states also have passed employer-sanctions laws, Arizona's is the only one that requires all employers to use E-Verify, which remains voluntary at the federal level. That will put Arizona on unequal competitive footing with other states, said Jim Harper of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization in Washington, D.C.

"We are spending money and time to actually reduce the productivity of the economy," said Harper, who instead favors opening up more legal channels for immigrants to work in the U.S.

State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who wrote the sanctions law, said it is a "myth" that illegal immigrants are needed to fill labor gaps in Arizona. Any gaps in Arizona's labor force could easily be filled by legal workers from states with high unemployment rates or by unemployed Arizonans driven out of the workforce because of depressed wages created by illegal immigration.

He also said businesses that leave the state because of the sanctions law will be replaced by new ones that come in to fill the void.

"This will all work out under the free-market system," he said.

It remains to be seen how evenly the sanctions law will be enforced around the state. The law will primarily be enforced by the state's 15 counties.

In Maricopa County, however, the state's economic and population center, Thomas, the county attorney, and Joe Arpaio, the sheriff, have said employers can expect vigorous enforcement. To enforce the law, Thomas and Arpaio said they will rely mostly on complaints from the public about employers thought to be hiring illegal workers, including those made anonymously.

Reach the reporter at daniel or 602-444-8312


Arizona employers focusing on costs, effects of new law

Many hoped to avoid signing up for E-Verify

Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 30, 2007 12:00 AM

Like many managers in Arizona, Debra Beal knows a far-reaching crackdown on businesses that employ illegal immigrants is at hand. And like thousands across the state, the restaurant manager has yet to make drastic changes at her business.

"We are waiting on the corporate office (in Texas) to tell us what to do," said Beal, who manages a Pancho's Mexican Buffet in Phoenix.

She is confident the restaurant's 35 current employees are legally allowed to work here. She says she is more concerned these days with declining business than she is with worrying about the details of the state's employer-sanctions law, which goes into effect Tuesday.

After months in court vainly trying to overturn the law before it began, businesses are down to the wire. With their business licenses at risk if they knowingly employ even one illegal worker, many are still trying to figure out what they now must do.

"We won't accept applications until everyone in the office understands what we have to do," said Alex Rubalcaba, the assistant manager of Able Body Labor, a day-labor employer on Central Avenue in Phoenix. "In the meantime, I'm trying to send the guys we already have" on new assignments.

Like most businesses in Arizona, Rubalcaba said Able Body had still not signed up for E-Verify, the free online federal database that electronically checks a new hire's employment eligibility. The service is required for new hires under the sanctions law, but federal records showed few of the state's 150,000 businesses had signed up as of late last week.

That is, in part, because many businesses had hoped to avoid doing so.

As part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, Jason LeVecke, who owns 57 restaurants that employ 1,100 people in Arizona, suggested it would cost him plenty.

He said his company already hired a full-time immigration compliance officer and estimated the law would cost him more than $60,000 in new computers to use E-Verify.

That's because hiring is done at each restaurant, which don't have computers connected to the Internet.

"The requirements of credit-card processing companies is that the computers used in the restaurants to process credit-card transactions cannot be equipped to have access to the Internet," LeVecke said in court papers.

It is a position that didn't persuade U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake, who has refused to block the law from going into effect.

"The hardship of using E-Verify is an increment to the already-pervasive regulation of labor and employment in our society," Wake wrote in explaining his decision. None of those suing "showed at trial that the actual cost will be (significant) in the context of its business operations."

Businesses that offer to help untangle checking employment verification for other companies said last week they were getting more calls and more clients.

"We've been pretty busy all along, but people are making decisions more quickly now," said Dan Siciliano, executive director of LawLogix, a San Francisco-based company that provides software to electronically handle employment verification services for the federal I-9 forms and E-Verify.

"I'll bet we're going to talk to a record number of (Arizona) businesses. I don't think most businesses have decided what they're going to do."

It's the same for Sheri Trager, vice president of Service Management Solutions, a Prescott-based company that offers a verification program.

In the weeks before Wake began ruling on the legal challenges, she said her company had about 40 requests for seminars explaining her program. After a pair of December rulings, she said they had about 200 such requests.

Some business owners have said they will eventually sign up for E-Verify but don't need to do so right away because they don't plan to hire anyone in the short term.

In fact, the law goes into effect at a time when Arizona employers historically add relatively few new workers.

Private-employer payrolls in the state have shrunk in January every year since at least 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Five industries that account for more than 70 percent of the state's workforce (including education/health services and leisure/hospitality) have lost more workers than they hired in January every year for the past three years, the federal records show. Employment generally picks up in February and March.

But LeVecke, for one, suggested in court records that his company is focused on expanding outside Arizona because of the costs and risks of the sanctions law.

Rubalcaba understands the fear. He said the day-labor business is seen as a magnet for illegal workers and worries that the new law will make it a target for investigation.

Beal said she suspects many immigrants, legal and illegal, already have left the state, cutting into her business at the same time the economy has slowed anyway. She said she could only guess what happens when the sanctions law begins.

"As far as what to expect," she said, "I don't know."


Lawyers: E-verify support difficult to contact

Ronald J. Hansen
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 28, 2007 07:30 PM

Arizona businesses planning to sign up for E-Verify about the time the state's employer-sanctions law goes into effect Tuesday may want to get an early start this week.

Federal authorities who can answer questions about the free online employment-verification system work East Coast hours only - 4:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Arizona.

Those who can give assistance also have been difficult to reach for questions in recent days, say lawyers who are suing to overturn the law, which threatens to revoke business licenses if companies knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

Under Arizona's new law, E-Verify is required for checking the eligibility of new hires. The system can't be used for checks on existing workers.

For information about E-Verify from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, call 888-464-4218.


Thomas: Prosecution of sanctions law violators begins Jan. 1

Michael Kiefer
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 17, 2007 04:18 PM

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said on Monday that neither his office nor the Sheriff's Office will begin prosecuting employers who violate the new law against hiring illegal immigrants until after it goes into effect Jan. 1.

But it will take time, he said, before the general public sees progress made in enforcing the Employer Sanctions Law, and he and investigating agencies will not be rushed for results.

"Complex investigations of this kind usually take a good deal of time," Thomas said. "Such investigations commonly take months or longer to complete."

But, answering one of the law's most pressing questions, he said that it can be applied retroactively and not just to new hires made after the first of the year.

The wording of the law refers to people who "employ" illegal immigrants, not those who merely "hire" them, he said.

However, to get a court decision against a violator requires evidence that the employer "knowingly and intentionally" employed the person or persons, and that is a high burden of proof. And in the future, employers will have had to use the federal E-Verify system to prove that their new hires are here legally; employers do not have to use the system for hires before Jan. 1, making it more difficult to prove that the hires were made knowingly or intentionally.

Therefore, the majority of prosecutions will likely be against new hires.

Thomas also vowed that the law will be enforced without racial profiling. And he said that his office would prefer not to receive anonymous complaints.


Uneasiness over sanction law

JJ Hensley and Kerry Fehr-Snyder
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 7, 2007 01:55 PM

The state's employer-sanctions law takes effect in less than a month, but Southeast Valley employers are still trying to figure out exactly how it will change the way they do business.

What they do know is that if they're repeatedly caught hiring an illegal immigrant after Jan. 1, they could lose their licenses.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office isn't offering guidelines until it sees the outcome of a lawsuit over whether the law allows Arizona to enforce federal employment verification laws.

In lieu of official guidance, some Maricopa County business owners have turned to each other for direction while many more are taking a "wait and see" approach.

"Unfortunately, in speaking with business owners, their biggest resource so far has been Google," said Matthew White, an immigration lawyer with Udall, Shumway and Lyons in Mesa. "That's really scary."

The Pima County Attorney's Office has issued a pamphlet to prepare employers for the law, saying it won't accept anonymous tips and will require complainants to meet with detectives and provide personal information.

Barnett Lotstein, a spokesman with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said don't expect the same treatment here.

"All of these (Pima County requirements) would chill a person from making a complaint. They're scare tactics and really designed to discourage people from making complaints," Lotstein said. "For that reason, (Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas) has said we will accept anonymous complaints."

Here's what some Southeast Valley employers think about the law.

International Minute Press, Gilbert.

Owner: Tony Hyland.

Employees: 6.

Position: Supports.

Tony Hyland, who owns the full-service printing, graphic design and typesetting service, predicts the new law will be thrown out before it can be enforced.

"Let's look at the people who are against it," he said. "It's primarily the business organizations that need cheap labor."

"What does that cost us? They're getting a free ride at a high social cost - the cost of educating their children, hospitalization and incarceration costs."

Hyland said a lot of business owners are afraid to voice their support of the law for fear they would be targeted by pro-immigration pickets like those who descended on Pruitt's furniture store in Phoenix.

"It's hard to find any business organization that supports the law," he said.

Chandler Battery Co. and Dana Tire & Auto Service.

Owner: Ted Dana.

Employees: 16.

Opinion: Mixed.

"I understand the reason for the law, and I understand all the emotion and the concern. But I think a lot of people are here illegally and taking advantage of our resources and draining them, especially when they come over here and have babies, and then they're automatically citizens."

Dana said his only concern about the crackdown is finding qualified workers to replace employees who are illegal immigrants.

"I can't get anyone to do the work. Anglos are especially hard to get because their work ethic isn't what it used to be," he said.

Dana said he recently attended a seminar of the National Federation of Independent Businessmen at which he was told he needed to check the immigration status of his current employees and make sure they qualify.

But even then, existing federal law puts illegal immigrants at risk of being deported. Employers, however, don't face the risk of losing their business licenses the way they do with under the new state law.

"I'm all for buying American and supporting America and all those things," he said. "But the work isn't going to get done, and I think a lot of businesses are going to go out of business."

The Doughnut Peddler, Mesa.

Owner: Smith Family Enterprises.

Employees: 110.

Position: Opposed.

Like many employers, Glade Smith said once he collects the required paperwork from prospective employees, he'd like to concentrate on his family's business, not the government's job of enforcing immigration laws.

The Smith family's 110 employees all have legal paperwork, which gives the business "safe harbor" under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, but it's the far-reaching ramifications of the state's new law that have Smith most concerned. The new state law applies only to new hires, after Jan. 1.

"This law goes after the businesses and people that are asking for ID's and paying taxes and doing those things the right way," Smith said. "The people that are criminals or people that are being paid under the table and not contributing to our society will continue to be able to hide from this law."

As an example, Smith cites an employee who has made about $28,000 so far this year, which will translate into more than a $5,000 annual tax contribution from the employee and Smith's company.

He doesn't think the government wants to lose those tax funds from honest employees who might be in the country illegally, but Smith said state lawmakers, with no help from the federal government, didn't have many other political options.

"Our government doesn't know how to fix the problems that we have, so in an effort to do something they have created a law that polarizes the community and will switch one economic problem for another," he said. "The government needs to set up a way that we can identify, not vilify, people that are here working in this state."

Tanner Materials, Chandler.

Assistant manager: Carlos Sanchez. Employees: 6.

Opinion: Opposed.

"A lot of people aren't up for it," he said. "Personally, I think it's just stirring things up, opening a can of worms."

Sanchez said one of the company's employees, a forklift operator, is leaving in mid-December to return to his family in Mexico.

"He was planning on leaving already, but with the new law, it sped up the decision," Sanchez said.

The company, which sells tiles to construction and landscape contractors, has heard complaints from commercial and residential construction companies as well as landscaping firms and those that build pools and barbecue pits, Sanchez said.

"That's where the feedback is coming from because they're going to get hit most," he said.

Monti's La Casa Vieja, Tempe.

Managing partner: Eddie Goitia.

Employees: 160.

Opinion: Mixed because the law is unclear.

"The people of Arizona want to have something done with regard to immigration policy. And the federal government has let them down," he said.

Because the law has been interpreted differently, he thinks employers will struggle to implement it and may overreact.

"I think what's going to happen is that a lot of businesses don't understand the law and are going to start releasing people that they don't need to," Goitia said. "They might not take the chance of keeping anyone around whose status is unclear."

Goitia said he doesn't expect the law to affect his business because he checked to make sure they had Form I-9s employment verifications about two years ago.

Goitia said he agrees with the new law on principle but that comprehensive immigration reform is what is really needed.

"The missing element is that there needs to be some type of guest worker program that went along with it," he said. "Our state is already faced with a grave situation where we're really tight on the labor market."

Matthew White.

Immigration attorney.

Udall, Shumway and Lyons, Mesa.

Matthew White has counseled businesses large and small, not-for-profit and breaking-the-bank in the months leading up to the law taking effect, and they all have the same response.

"There's just so much fear of the unknown," White said.

That goes for a revered non-profit that accidentally discarded a former employee's I-9 form a few months before it was legally allowed to, to a company with 2,000-plus employees, many of whom are foreign nationals, that privately admits the sheer number of its workforce enhances the possibility of an illegal employee working there.

With more fear than facts, some businesses have taken it upon themselves to do some rooting out, which can have unintended consequences.

"Unfortunately, I've had to counsel many businesses who said, 'We're not going to take the risk, we're just going to fire all our Mexicans or all our Salvadorans, because politically it's just not very tenable right now to have those numbers . . . we need to have White faces,' " White said, paraphrasing the response of some business owners.

Some of those businesses are now facing discrimination lawsuits, White said, for violating a key provision of the 1986 Immigration Act.

Other businesses have contemplated fleeing Maricopa County for other counties in the state where enforcement might be more lax, or other states altogether, where no such laws exist.

But there are federal laws on the books, White tells them, and with increased funding, Department of Homeland Security agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection finally have the means to enforce those laws.

"Wherever you go, you're still going to have the federal law, and they now have funding. Either get your business in line and comply with it or you're going to need to be spending some jail time," White said. "My message to those employers that will admit to me they know that guy has got fraudulent paperwork is, 'Unless you're willing to go to jail for this guy, you've got to fire him.' "


Seminars offer help with employer-sanctions law

Sept. 11, 2007 02:38 PM

Seminars offer help with employer-sanctions law Several organizations are holding seminars to help immigrants and employers prepare for the employer-sanctions law. Here is a partial list:

Every Thursday. 11a.m.-12 p.m. Free. "Basic Pilot Program Webinar," hosted by Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Verification Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To register send email to: