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3/26 AZ: Immigration hawks seek to put two measures on Arizona's ballot
Released 27 March 2007  By Associated Press

Immigration hawks seek to put two measures on Arizona's ballot

March 26, 2007
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Advocates for tougher border enforcement filed two proposed ballot measures in Arizona that would make it a state crime to knowingly hire those who sneak in the country and criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants in the state.

Leaders of the effort said Monday that they were trying to put the proposals on the 2008 ballot because the federal government has failed to adequately confront illegal immigration.

"You'll see the illegal alien issue turn around almost overnight," said Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, one of the top leaders in the effort. "It's attrition by enforcement."

Since late 2004, Arizona voters have approved five immigration measures. Four were approved in November with at least 70 percent of the vote.

Organizers would need to gather petition signatures from 153,000 voters for the two latest measures to appear on the ballot. The two proposals were handed to state authorities late Friday afternoon.

While federal law already prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, one of the proposed ballot measures would prohibit employers from making such hirings.

It would require all employers in the state to verify the work eligibility of workers through a federal records database. Such a requirement would take effect in March 2009.

Violators would face the permanent revocation of their business licenses. The proposal would give a measure of legal protection to employers who can prove they verified the eligibility of their workers through the database.

Critics said it's unproductive for a state to try to create employer sanctions when Congress is considering an overhaul of the country's immigration policies.

They also said the federal verification database isn't ready for large-scale use and contains inaccurate and outdated information.

"We hope by this summer that (an immigration bill) will be on the president's desk, and these types of initiatives wouldn't be necessary," said Farrell Quinlan, a spokesman for Arizona Employers For Immigration Reform, a group of businesses seeking federal action on immigration.

Businesses that hire illegal immigrants are blamed for encouraging people to sneak across the border. The Pew Hispanic Center has estimated that illegal immigrants account for one in 10 workers in Arizona.

The Legislature is already considering an employer sanctions measure this year that would prohibit the hiring of illegal immigrants and require businesses to sign affidavits saying they aren't breaking such a rule. A three-time violators would face up to 18 months in prison and a mandatory business license revocation.

The other proposed ballot measure would criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants in Arizona by expanding the state's trespassing law to let local authorities arrest illegal border-crossers.

First-offense would be a top-tier misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Subsequent violations would be a felony that would carry a penalty of up to 2 1/2 years in prison.

A similar idea was vetoed last year by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who sided with police agencies that said such a new duty would have been a drag on their budgets.

The proposal also aims to make communities get rid of policies that prohibit police officers from asking the immigration status of people they contact.

Police officials have said it would make it harder for officers to maintain trust and investigate violent crime in immigrant communities, because fewer migrants would cooperate for fear of being sent back home, opponents said.

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