OCTOBER 13, 2009
Nearly two years after Arizona enacted the nation’s toughest law against those who hire illegal immigrants no businesses have been prosecuted even though the state is estimated to have nearly half a million undocumented workers.
The landmark measure allows the state to severely punish—even revoke the license—of businesses caught hiring illegal aliens and requires them to verify workers’ legal status. The law caused a ruckus among business owners and so-called Latino rights groups that claim racial discrimination, but has survived several legal challenges at the state and federal level.
The problem, however, is that no employers have been punished because the sanctions law is virtually impossible to enforce. For starters, it doesn’t give county prosecutors charged with pursuing violators civil subpoena power to examine personnel records that could help prove illegal aliens were knowingly hired.
This sort of subpoena power is granted to other administrative agencies that enforce similar statutes, the frustrated prosecutors in Arizona’s 15 counties say. Without it, authorities are forced to rely on the voluntary disclosure of crucial personnel records by the very businesses being investigated. Not surprisingly, all the accused have opted not to cooperate.
As a result dozens of investigations throughout the state have been shut because authorities can’t access crucial data that could prove wrongdoing. In Yavapai County for instance, crippled investigators have been forced to close 20 of their 23 probes into businesses that they say employ illegal immigrants.
In Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest, none of the 22 businesses that have been caught hiring illegal aliens have been punished, even though more than 300 employees have been arrested for identity theft and using fake identification to work. In most of those cases the sheriff’s department obtained warrants to raid the companies because criminal wrongdoing, such as identity theft, was alleged.
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