NOVEMBER 10, 2009
After investing millions of dollars to enforce the nation’s toughest law against businesses that hire illegal immigrants, Arizona has not punished one employer and a chunk the money remains largely unspent by counties throughout the state.
When legislators passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act two years ago with great fanfare, they allocated the sufficient funds (about $5 million) to enforce it. After all, the state is estimated to have nearly half a million undocumented workers and the landmark law allows authorities to severely punish—even revoke the license—of businesses caught hiring illegal aliens.
But two years later no one has been prosecuted and at least $1.44 million sits idle because authorities in nine of the state’s 15 counties say there have been few complaints about employers violating the law. 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.
Never the less, Maricopa County has spent nearly all of the $2.86 million provided under the sanction law to crack down on other crimes related to illegal immigration, such as identity theft and human smuggling. Some of the money went to the salaries of six sheriff deputies and a sergeant assigned to investigate employer sanction violations.
Some county prosecutors complain that the law is virtually impossible to enforce because it doesn’t give local authorities charged with pursuing violators civil subpoena power to examine personnel records that could prove illegal aliens were knowingly hired. 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.
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