Gov.: Employer Sanctions Law Is Better Than Ballot Initiatives

Gov.: Employer-sanctions law is better than ballot initiatives

Touts flexibility of measure that takes effect Jan. 1

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona |
Published: 10.18.2007

PHOENIX Gov. Janet Napolitano prefers a new state law that would punish companies that hire undocumented workers over alternatives being pushed through initiatives.

The governor said Wednesday she recognizes the new law, set to take effect Jan. 1, may have unintended consequences.

“There are lots of people on both sides of it who are predicting doom and gloom depending on different scenarios,” she said. These range from companies fearing they will be put out of business for inadvertent errors in hiring, to concerns employers will discriminate against anyone who looks Hispanic, to questions of whether depriving Arizona companies of workers will undermine the state's economy.

But Napolitano said one of the strong points of the legislation is it “allows for monitoring and close watchfulness so changes can be made to make it deal with what it's supposed to deal with: employers who intentionally and knowingly keep going into the illegal-immigrant market to find cheap labor.” She said that automatically makes the measure superior to either of the initiatives proposed for next year's ballot.

Napolitano said the ability to make changes is particularly important for “a new law that's never been tried by any state we're the first one.”

A 1998 constitutional amendment limits the ability of legislators to alter anything approved by voters. That means that even if an initiative creates significant problems, the only way of making major alterations, or repealing it entirely, is to take it back to the ballot.

The new law allows a judge to suspend a company's state licenses or permits to do business for up to 10 days for knowingly hiring an undocumented worker. A second offense within three years would result in revocation. The law will also require all companies to check information about new employees through the E-Verify database program run by the federal government.

One initiative being circulated for signatures proposes a stricter standard, putting firms out of business for a single violation. A second, by contrast, gives more protections to some companies.