On Jan. 1, 2008, Arizona’s tough anti-immigration law takes effect and the state’s employers are worried. Businesses that are caught employing undocumented workers face the suspension or loss of their business license. And employers in other states are worrying that tough new employer sanctions will spread to their area.
Many Arizona employers aren't waiting for the New Year to act. Already, several businesses have fired Hispanic employees, while others have audited their workforce to ensure compliance.
Under the new Arizona law, anyone who suspects an employer has hired an illegal worker can file a complaint with the county sheriff. The sheriff will then investigate. If the investigation reveals undocumented workers, the employer faces suspension of its business license. Repeat offenders can be forced out of business altogether.
While Arizona employers are rushing to get into compliance, they are also pushing back. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and several allied groups filed a federal lawsuit to block the law’s implementation. A similar lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality.
The law’s specter haunts both the business community and the Mexican-American population. The state’s largest franchiser, fast food chain Carl’s Jr., has put expansion plans on hold. Jason Levecke, grandson of the chain’s founder, told The Wall Street Journal the state’s climate is too risky for their planned 20 new outlets. “That’s $30 million that could blow up in my face,” he told the paper.
Legal Hispanic immigrants have noticed a backlash as well. Customers have openly questioned workers documentation. Employers face the potential of choosing between protecting their workers from customer harassment or alienating clientele.
To some, the law is a product of election-year grandstanding with immigration becoming the new law-and-order issue. To others, tough measures must be taken to stem massive waves of immigrants who increase demands on government, schools and social services. Employers are caught in the middle.