Employer Sanctions

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Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shares his views about Arizona’s employer sanctions law which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: The United States Supreme Court last week upheld Arizona's employer sanctions law. Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona chamber of commerce and industry, is here to talk about how the high court's decision impacts Arizona businesses. Thanks for joining us on "Horizon."

Glenn Hamer: Great to be back.

Ted Simons: Before we get to how it impacts business, your thoughts on the Supreme Court decision.

Glenn Hamer: We were disappointed. From the get-go, we didn't feel it right to have one set of laws for Arizona employers and another for employers in 49 other states. With that said, we've been living under this law for almost four years. The Supreme Court decision doesn't change that. The same law in effect the day before the decision remains in effect. And the -- a good story that is important to get out there, Arizona employers have been use the e-verify program at a greater percentage than employers in any other state. The real story here is what the Supreme Court's decision is going to do for the 49 states that doesn't have the tough employer sanctions law.

Ted Simons: A real story because you could have other states implementing laws so unfriendly to business, they could move to Arizona or perhaps they make more sense to some, than Arizona's law, you could have Arizona businesses nosing around there. The whole dynamic changes.

Glenn Hamer: It does. And I would bet the house you will see a number of states next year going down the road of a Arizona-style employer sanctions law. On some of the immigration issues it's possible the spotlight may move to some other states.

Ted Simons: What were your concerns regarding the impact to business, A and B, are we talking big business or mom and pops?

Glenn Hamer: It's across the board. When this law came about, we have to go back about four years, this was the first of its kind and we have to remember that the penalties in the law are very severe. A loss of a business license. The business death penalty upon a second conviction. In terms of companies knowingly breaking the law and hiring illegal workers, they should be punished and it should be severe. We've always felt that the right place do those punishments are on the federal level. The Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. And Arizona companies will continue to respect and abide by the elements of the Legal Arizona's Workers Act.

Ted Simons: Ruled otherwise, but only in the sense of licensing. Seems like the court's decision almost -- and some are trying to figure out how 1070 will apply here. But it was a narrow decision, wasn't it?

Glenn Hamer: It's narrow, it's certainly an open season for all types of immigration-type laws and seems that the Supreme Court felt that this was a case where the state truly was using a federal system and federal definitions and in a sense was furthering federal law. And another point I would point out: Republicans, Democrats in the U.S. Congress, the Administration, all support a strong E-verify system. My prediction within the next several years, either by itself or part of a larger packet, we'll see a system in place where employers in the United States, wherever they're located will have to use the E-verify system.

Ted Simons: Since we've had this employer sanctions law, we've had three prosecutions, why so few? Some thought this would be a huge tsunami of cases. Hasn't turned out that way.

Glenn Hamer: To me, the real story, there's been incredible compliance among the Arizona employer community with all of the aspects of the law. The law requires the use of E-verify. At the Arizona Chamber we've hosted a number webinars over the course of the last four years with the Department of Homeland Security to explain to businesses across the state how to comply with the law. To me, the story is that businesses using E-verify in good faith are basically do not need to worry about being prosecuted under the law and the prosecutors have been very responsible in terms of how they've implemented this.

Ted Simons: You've called for a workable temporary visa program. What does that mean?

Glenn Hamer: Even though this is the toughest economy since the Great Depression, there are areas where we need additional labor. I don't believe anyone is arguing all of our labor needs in, say, the agricultural community are being met. The -- we have H2A program, the program that exists for agricultural workers that's badly broken. In fact, unfortunately the Bush administration made a few modest improvements to the program. The current administration has blocked it. We also need an easier way it get higher skilled workers in this country as well and that's popularly known as H1B. One of the great gifts of this state and country, is that the smartest and hardest working people from around the world want to come here and want to work and we need to figure out a way to take advantage of that and unfortunately, our visa programs are in poor shape.

Ted Simons: Senate president Russell Pearce says it was a huge victory for the American worker and that mindset basically says these folks have been taking jobs from the American workers. You're suggesting in agriculture, that's not the case. You don't see this as a huge victory for American workers?

Glenn Hamer: I see it as the writing has been on the wall in terms of where the use of E-verify going. In terms of American workers, generally speaking, immigrants who come in, whether it's for agricultural or higher skilled workers, are filling gaps in the workplace. This decision in our view is narrow and probably will expedite the use of E-verify in other states and ultimately federally.

Ted Simons: What do you think the impact on 1070 would be?

Glenn Hamer: It's -- it's tough to say. I wouldn't read too much into this case in this terms of 1070.

Ted Simons: Last question: Among those who applauded this decision, the phrase "profits over patriotism," that's how your group and a certain mindset is described. Profits over patriotism. Obviously, an emotional debate. When you hear that said, how do you respond?

Glenn Hamer: Our members are very patriotic and want to earn a profit. Businesses can only survive if they earn a profit. I will tell you, all of the companies at the chamber want to play by the rules, they want a workable -- excuse me -- a workable employee verification system and we believe it's very patriotic to have successful businesses that can create jobs particularly in a state that's lost 250,000 plus jobs since the depression began.

Ted Simons: Alright, Glenn great to have you here.

Glenn Hamer: Great to be on the show.

Glenn Hamer:President and CEO,Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry;

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