Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 1, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Employer Sanctions


  • We�ll hear the pros and cons of changes being proposed to Arizona�s Employer Sanctions Law, which cracks down on employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens.
Guests:
  • Kyrsten Sinema - State representative
  • John Kavanagh - State representative
Category: Immigration

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Today members of the House of Representatives passed bill to tweak Arizona's employer sanctions law. The package of changes appears to be on the fast track through the legislature. House bill 2745 makes several changes. One extends state penalties to independent contractors and employers who pay in cash. The law applies to employees hired after January 1st. Joining us, representative Kyrsten Sinema and Representative John Kavanagh.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us.

Kyrsten Sinema:
Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons:
Are you happy with the changes made to the law?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I think some of the changes made today are important. Unfortunately, the changes don't represent the changes we need to have happen in Arizona. In addition, we have an entire task force really working on this issue that made a number of recommendations, and only a portion of those are in this bill. There are still some really significant problems with the legislation. This is a first step, but it certainly doesn't solve the problems.

Ted Simons:
John, happy with the changes?

John Kavanagh:
Generally happy. Some of the gray areas are straightened out which are going to make businesses more comfortable with the bill. There was a slight retreat in the prosecution area, but you've got to compromise to get something which can get through.

Ted Simons:
Does the law still place too much of a burden on businesses?

John Kavanagh:
I don't think so. I think that it's everybody's responsibility to help stop illegal immigration. Businesses have other responsibilities, paying taxes, not discriminating, this is just one more thing that needs to be done.

Ted Simons:
What do you think, still too much of a burden on businesses?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I don't think it's so much that it's a burden on businesses. There are some real general gaps that haven't been addressed that can create opportunities for unfair enforcement or capricious prosecution. One portion of the law that wasn't fixed was a portion that allows anonymous complaints to come in. A person with a vendetta could still file a complaint and it could be prosecuted and pushed through. It causes real concern for legitimate employers doing their best.

Ted Simons:
If you've got a disgruntled worker or a competitor, that's got to be a concern.

John Kavanagh:
It is, and certainly a frivolous false complaint is against the law. This bill has a penalty for it. If you don't have anonymous complaints, you're taking away a great tool for enforcement. The people most likely to have inside information about a business are current legal employees. If their name is exposed, they will lose their job. You can call anonymous 9-1-1 calls, health complaints at a restaurant, it's not right to single out this one enforcement area and ban them. They're good if law enforcement uses the techniques they've always used to weed out the ones that are suspicious or frivolous.

Kyrsten Sinema:
There's a really easy way around this, when a person calls in a complaint, you can gather the information and keep it confidential and not share it with the public. That way you can still protect the confidentiality and the real fear that some people have about making reports.

John Kavanagh:
That's not true. In a court proceeding, that evidence can in fact be brought forward, and it would have a chilling effect on people who are going to turn in employers that are hiring illegals. You will encourage people to attack or in some cases racially profile other businesses.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned the task force and how some of the recommendations aren't in here. Give us some examples.

Kyrsten Sinema:
I would have liked to have seen expanding the prohibition on profiling to include local law enforcement. Right now we do have a state protection for county attorneys and for the attorney general's office not to engage in any kind of profiling based on race, national origin, or other factors. That was not expanded to include local law enforcement agencies. That's concerning, because those agencies can still engage in profiling without any kind of penalty attached to that.

Ted Simons:
Why wasn't that in there?

John Kavanagh:
Is in there. The law clearly states that they shall not investigate complaints based solely on race, color or national origin. There are a host of laws that make racial profiling illegal, even a law suit against a police officer who deprived someone of a right because of color.

Kyrsten Sinema:
It covers the county attorney general's office, but there's no clarification that it covers local law enforcement or police officers in the way they investigate the cases.

Ted Simons:
No licenses or permits if you can't prove you are here illegally.

Kyrsten Sinema:
I think that's appropriate.

John Kavanagh:
Good for the goose, good for the gander.

Ted Simons:
Was that an appropriate move that would not have even gotten done without the law being passed in the first place?

Kyrsten Sinema:
There would have been no opposition, and it would have moved through the process.

John Kavanagh:
Last year it was a stand-alone and didn't make it. That was one of Russell Pearce's bills.

Kyrsten Sinema:
That might be the reason right there.

Ted Simons:
Sanctions apply only to the site where the hiring happened. Again, sound fair to you?

Kyrsten Sinema:
Absolutely. This is one of the concerns the governor raised when she signed the legislation last year and one I think many of us shared. If one store manager or employer is violating the law, other individuals who operate other similar best buys or whatever the store is, McDonald's or whatever, shouldn't be penalized for one employer's inappropriate action.

Ted Simons:
That change make sense to you?

John Kavanagh:
Yeah, a whole chain shouldn't go down because of a rogue site manager hiring a friend.

Ted Simons:
What about the payments in cash? I know this was an initial concern, almost across the board. And with all of these questions I'm asking now and addressing, seems like there's bipartisan support on a lot of these things, why weren't these things in the original bill.

John Kavanagh:
The original bill had a lot of moving parts to begin with. The more parts you put in the bill, the more some members find cause to not vote for your bill. We try to keep the bills down to a minimum number of separate entities to stop people from basically objecting and voting against it.

Ted Simons:
This make sense to you?

Kyrsten Sinema:
There are a group of us last year who voiced this specific issue, that the cash economy would go completely undetected and really unmonitored. So this is a change I think everyone agreed with, last year there was a really difficult time finding a compromise on this legislation. In fact, many entities, both legislators and advocates, had problems with the legislation. There was some real difficulty in negotiating and finding a compromise. This year after some time, isn't it last session, and frankly after people had started noticing problems and could document them, it made it easier for people to come back to the table and negotiate.

Ted Simons:
Is this bill still flawed?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I do think there are major flaws. However, I think what we see with this piece of legislation, we are moving towards a better direction. I have a fundamental problem with the way that this legislation was crafted and moved through the process in the first place. I'm not going to say that Arizonans don't support employer sanctions because they do. But what they're looking for are employer sanctions that are fair, reasonable and tough. The first round of legislation was not that. The second round gets us closer, but not there.

Ted Simons:
Still flawed?

John Kavanagh:
The first bill was fair but firm, and this bill is fairer but firmer.

Kyrsten Sinema:
I'm waiting for fairest and firmest.

Ted Simons:
What about the folks with the ballot measures out there? Lawmakers are always keeping them in their sights and trying to figure out if it's good enough to keep them off the ballot. Good enough.

John Kavanagh:
I would hope that it would be. When everybody realizes you put it through a ballot measure, it can't be changed. You never know how a judge or somebody's going to misinterpret the law, and we need the ability to change. I'm hoping both sides give us a chance with this new bill.

Ted Simons:
Think so?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I have to agree. I was opposed to both initiatives sponsored. I think both of those should go away. The appropriate place to deal with this frankly is congress. But if we're going to deal with it in the state, it should happen in the legislature. I agree we need to have the ability to go back and change it. As the law becomes implemented over time, we need to be able to adjust, fix the problems that occur.

Ted Simons:
Enough votes for the emergency clause to kick in?

John Kavanagh:
It did.

Ted Simons:
There we go. Real quickly, the Arizona temporary workers program, why is the idea right now? And do you like the idea?

John Kavanagh:
I heard it was stalled, it's being resurrected. I like the idea in concept, but the two changes I need to have put in the bill is first, to prevent so many people from being brought in that we wind up depressing U.S. wages and taking away jobs. The second is we have to stop these individuals from creating a path to citizenship or from having children born that become citizens. If it's a true guest worker program, I can live with it.

Ted Simons:
What do you think?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I'm not sure how you could legislate weather or not someone can have babies so that would be a concern for me. I heard it was dropped yesterday and being fast tracked. Nothing's being fast tracked in the Arizona state legislature these days. I think there are legitimate concerns about whether we're bringing people over just to use for forced labor or servitude. I do understand the motivation, and we have to do something about the workforce problems here in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Should it be limited to agricultural workers?

Kyrsten Sinema:
I have trouble believing Mr. Pearce would support it if it was. If you are bringing workers into Arizona, we should fill all the areas that we have shortages in.

John Kavanagh:
We begin with agriculture because we can get a handle on how many jobs we need. That'll prevent the abuse problems, or flooding the market with hotel workers or other such service employees.

Ted Simons:
We've got to stop there. Thank you so much for joining us.

John Kavanagh:
Thank you.

Kyrsten Sinema:
Thank you.

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