When the state's employer-sanctions law took effect nearly a year ago, it threatened to shut down businesses that hired illegal workers.
But not a single employer has been taken to court in Arizona, mainly because the landmark law is too difficult to enforce, authorities say.
In Maricopa County, where the law led to raids on a dozen businesses and the arrest of 159 workers and a manager, investigators have not been able to assemble enough evidence showing that employers actually knew the arrested workers were illegal, which the sanctions law requires.
The racist motives of the nativists often run counter to those who wish to profit off of the otherwise unwelcome laborers. Business groups did what they could to prevent the employer sanctions law from going into effect, but the nativists pushed it through. I've written previously about how the employer sanctions law was obviously just a way to target employees, not employers, and sure enough, even the local newspapers are noticing... well, at least they're noticing that the original intent of the law is not taking place.
Authorities have obtained records up to now with criminal search warrants, allowed because the raids were carried out as a probe into immigrants' criminal identity theft. But Thomas said officers need subpoena power to make a civil case directly against an employer and prove intentional hiring of illegal workers. Employers in violation can have business licenses suspended or revoked.
Business groups oppose the change, saying the sanctions law is already the toughest in the nation and most employers are complying. Giving law enforcement more powers would lead to further harassment of businesses when the state's economy is already suffering, they say...
The law applies only to hires made after Dec. 31, 2007, and many of the 151 illegal immigrants arrested in the 12 raids had been hired earlier, authorities say.
Still, supporters say the law is fulfilling its purpose of turning off the job magnet that draws illegal immigrants to Arizona. Employers fearful of losing their business licenses are taking extra steps to make sure they aren't employing illegal workers, which in turn has driven many undocumented immigrants and their families to leave the state, officials said...
Critics, however, contend that the Legal Arizona Workers Act is being used as an excuse to target only illegal workers, not employers, an ineffective way to fight illegal immigration.
"It (raises) the question: After all the expense and resources put into this law, were the employers the real target?" said Phoenix immigration lawyer Gerald Burns. "Probably not. It was to instill fear and to vet out suspected undocumented workers or drive them out of the state."