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New sanctions bill stops short of addressing concerns

The Arizona Legislature is currently debating employer sanctions legislation. House Bill 2745, sponsored by Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, comes on the heels of a law approved last year that provides sanctions against employers who hire undocumented workers.
The business community has raised a number of concerns about the law, such as allowing people to file anonymous complaints against companies. In addition, the governor and others are concerned that the law does not provide necessary protections against discrimination. I voted against the bill because it does not go far enough in addressing those concerns.
The bill would create a whole new level of government bureaucracy by requiring government officials to review the immigration status of people who apply for licenses and permits. Government workers will need costly training to make this determination. During this economic downturn, any additional cost will be difficult for government agencies to absorb. In addition, there is some concern that a backlog may be created while government officials receive training. The sponsor of the bill has proposed this provision in years past without gaining the necessary support.
Another problem is that the bill requires the Attorney General’s Office to maintain a list of employers enrolled in the E-verify program and to develop a recognition process. This recognition could appear to be some sort of business endorsement from the state, potentially posing liability problems.
The House speaker’s Ad Hoc Committee on Business Owners and Work Site Enforcement was opposed to allowing anonymous complaints. This could potentially lead to a business competitor filing a false claim against a company to gain a competitive edge or to devastate a small business with the expense of a false allegation. The bill would allow county sheriffs and local law enforcement agencies to investigate complaints on behalf of the county attorneys, but the bill does not provide discrimination protection from these agencies.
This bill will make businesses think twice before moving their headquarters or a major project to Arizona. This is especially true with the provision to suspend or revoke the articles of incorporation that were established to protect businesses owners and investors.
I have been involved in this issue for the last two years. Last year, I sponsored a comprehensive bill that included employer sanctions. This year I co-sponsored six bills that addressed the concerns of the ad hoc committee. Several of these key concerns are not addressed in Rep. Pearce’s bill. I join many others, including the business community, in hoping that the Senate makes the necessary improvements to this pending legislation.
Rep. Theresa Ulmer of Yuma is a Democrat who represents District 24.

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