The tough, new anti-immigration law signed in June by Gov. Janet Napolitano puts at risk Arizona businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, but an informal poll of several Camp Verde businesses indicates many business owners are unaware of the new law’s requirements.
All four Camp Verde businesses contacted were unaware that starting in 2008, Arizona business owners will be required to use the U.S. government’s automated system to verify employee citizenship.
The new law requires employers to verify that the people they employ are present in the country legally.
Knowingly or intentionally failing to verify citizenship will cause the employer’s business licenses to be suspended.
A second offense can result in the “business death penalty,” according to the Governor’s Office.
The automated system that Arizona businesses will have to use starting next year is known as the Basic Pilot Project.
BPP was made available as a voluntary program in all 50 states beginning in July 2004, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
About 15,000 businesses currently participate in BPP on a nationwide basis, the Governor’s Office stated.
Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Roy Gugliotta declined comment on the law until he had a chance to review its provisions in more detail.
Camp Verde Realtor Rob Witt said the law would likely have an impact in Camp Verde, especially at construction firms, but local governments like the Camp Verde Planning and Zoning Commission, where Witt serves as chairman, and the Camp Verde Sanitary District, where he also serves as chairman, will feel little impact.
The law specifically requires governments to verify the citizenship of all government employees using BPP.
Witt said employees at the real estate firm where he works are screened by the state through the real estate licensing process.
“I feel like we’re punishing the wrong people by this law,” Witt said, “The result of it is that the immigrants who aren’t causing problems are the ones that are being punished.”
“The immigrants who are out working and contributing to society are not the ones we want to punish,” Witt said.
The Verde Valley’s largest private employer, Cliff Castle Casino, did not respond to requests for interviews as of press time.
The casino’s official Web site states prospective employees are closely screened in compliance with the law. The casino’s online application states applicants will be required to prove their citizenship.
Most employers currently use the federal Form I-9 to verify citizenship, according to the Governor’s Office.
Prospective employees sign the form to verify their U.S. citizenship.
The form requires applicants to provide two forms of identification to prove citizenship, like a valid driver’s license and birth certificate.
Those who use the I-9 form are well on their way to complying with the new law, according to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Starting in January, Arizona employers will be required to run the I-9 forms they collect from new hires through the federal BPP citizenship verification process.
The BPP allows employers to get automated confirmation of a newly hired employee’s work authorization. Businesses that fail to properly verify the citizenship of their employees using BPP risk losing their license to operate in the state, possibly forever, according to the new law.
Napolitano announced she would call a special session of the legislature to fix problems she sees with the current law. According to the governor:
? The bill should protect critical infrastructure. Hospitals, nursing homes and power plants could be shut down for days because of a single wrongful employment decision.
? The revocation provision is overbroad, and could cause a business with multiple locations to face shutdown of its entire operation based on an infraction that occurred at only one location.
? The bill is underfunded. Even though the Arizona Attorney General’s Office must establish an entirely new database and must investigate complaints statewide, only $100,000 is appropriated for that purpose. Only $70,000 is appropriated to notify employers of the change in the law.
? There is no expressed provision protecting Arizona citizens or legal residents from discrimination under the terms of this bill.
? There is even a typo that has to be fixed. The bill cites the wrong portion of a federal law.