Employer Sanctions Ruling

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Arizona’s law that prohibits the intentional hiring of illegal immigrants gets a hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Arizona Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer will provide an update.

>>>Larry Lemmons:
Good evening, welcome to "Horizon." I'm Larry Lemmons in for Ted Simons. The ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco held a hearing this morning on Arizona's employer sanctions law. Here by phone to tell us more about the court's hearing is Arizona Capital Media Services Reporter Howard Fischer. Howie, I was reading some of your dispatches from the front earlier today, and it sounded like the court was leaning a little bit on the state side.

>>Howard Fischer:
Exactly. The real problem becomes for the challengers that they have to convince a federal judge or in this case three federal judges that there is no way the state can in any way regulate employers and who they hire, particularly the issue of illegal immigration. Now, federal law does say generally immigration is a federal issue. But the law also says that the state may impose sanctions on employers' licenses, which is exactly what the Arizona law does. It says if you're found guilty of having knowingly hired undocumented workers, a state judge may suspend or revoke your license. Despite that, a variety of business and civil rights groups have sued, saying the state has stepped over its ground and so what's happened now is that these groups have challenged the law but I'll tell you, I was listening to the questions from the three judges today and they don't sound convinced that in fact Arizona has done anything illegal.

>>Larry Lemmons:
And, you know, as I said, yeah, I could really tell that from your article what. Did the people bringing the suit, how did they feel about being confronted in such a way by the judges?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, it obviously depends on what you talk to. For example, I talked to attorney David Felton who represents some of the business groups, and he tried his spin, if you will, was to say well of course the judges are always going to pose sharp questions so they understand the issues, but I also talked to David Jones, president of the Arizona contractors association, and he said, well, it didn't exactly go very well for us today and in fact if the ninth circuit upholds the legality of the law which is what the judge did in phoenix last year, then I guess we have to go to the U.S. Supreme court.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Do you anticipate that, U.S. Supreme Court?

>>Howard Fischer:
Well, I think either way this will end up as a petition for review for the Supreme Court. There's just so much writing here. Obviously you have the backers of the bill, much crafted by Representative Russell Pearce, would believed that the state can only do so much to deal with illegal immigration. They can't cut up fences and cannot put up their own D.P.S. on the board, but they can say we're going to dry up the magnet. What's bringing people here are the jobs and it's very possible that 500,000 to 600,000 Arizona residents, which is perhaps one out of every six or seven, is here illegally and clearly holding jobs. His feeling is if we make it enough of a punishment for companies to knowingly hire illegals, as Russell likes to put it, when they close down the rides at Disneyland, the people go home. So obviously if the law is overturned, Russell and the state will appeal. If the law is upheld, the businesses who don't want to face what they call the death penalty of having their licenses suspended or revoked will appeal to the Supreme Court.

>>Larry Lemmons:
What about the argument that was mentioned that having this sort of employer sanctions law will create a vulcanization of immigration law, that you'll have different states with different laws that it will be very difficult for international or national companies.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's certainly a possibility but it's not unusual. Every state has different laws, for example, what's taxable. Labor laws are different in let's say California where I am now versus in Arizona, minimum wage laws, things like that. And so everything is different. Is it a big problem for a company to do that? I don't know. I mean, the fact is when you hire people, if you use the E-Verify Database the federal government has, you can go ahead and check if people are here illegally, and that's what the state law requires, if you don't use the E-Verify System and if you're found guilty, guess what, you're going to wind up in trouble.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Quickly, Howie, one more question. When can we expect a ruling?

>>Howard Fischer:
This could take weeks at least. We've been up here on the Flores case and the fact is that those English language learner case rulings tend to take two to three months. I think something this complex I think the judges will want to make sure they've got all their "T's" crossed and "I's" dotted because they know whoever loses will appeal to a higher court.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Thank you very much, Howie Fischer from Capitol Media Services.

Howard Fischer:Arizona Capital Media Services;

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