Businesses resent new immigration responsibilities

With the failure of the immigration bill in the Senate, more cities and states have been establishing their own enforcement laws regarding immigration.

However, with these laws, city and state politicians are asking local businesses to take on the responsibility of determining which of their immigrant employees are legal and which are illegal—a responsibility that businesses are not eager to accept, according to

For example, a recent bill in Arizona states that businesses would have their licenses suspended after the first offense of hiring an illegal immigrant and permanently revoked after the second offense. However, Arizona businesspeople believe it is not their role but the government's to police the situation.

"Instead of the government stepping up and dealing with [the immigration issue], they are expecting businesspeople to become document specialists and be their enforcement tool," says Kevin Rogers, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. "It's not fair to punish businesses."

A group of Arizona business leaders are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the bill before it goes into effect Jan. 1. The lawsuit is brought by the Arizona Contractors Association and the Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform and says the law is unconstitutional.

Arizona businesspeople also are alarmed by the uncertainty of the bill's criteria, a concern echoed by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who signed the bill but said some measures "are unclear and need to be made more clear so everybody knows what the laws are."

This bill seems to most heavily affect labor-intensive businesses such as agriculture or construction. Arizona business owners are afraid the bill will contribute to the already existing worker shortage and believe it is unrealistic to hold employers responsible for determining which workers are illegal when there is not a reliable system to help them do so.

A similar situation occurred in Hazleton, Pa., when it passed a law that would have required landlords to prove their tenants were legal U.S. residents. Immigrant groups filed a lawsuit saying the law was unconstitutional, and the law was struck down by a federal court judge on July 26.

Date : 8/2/2007