Arizona voters are likely going to get a chance to do what lawmakers and a federal judge have so far refused to do: dilute the state's new employer sanctions law. A business-financed group filed about 284,000 signatures Tuesday for its own version of a statute that backers say provides "tough, enforceable, fair" laws.
Only 153,365 valid signatures are needed to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure, dubbed Stop Illegal Hiring, contains the same penalties as the state law that took effect Jan. 1. It allows a judge to suspend all state licenses of any firm found to have knowingly hired an undocumented worker, and a second violation within three years results in license revocation.
But this version requires prosecutors to prove that the owner or an officer of the company have "actual knowledge'' that a worker is here illegally. That an underling has deliberately hired the undocumented worker and the owner may have reason to believe the person is illegal would not be enough.
Potentially more significant, it provides absolute immunity to firms that either use the E-Verify system or simply comply with existing federal laws about checking the identity of new workers.
That law requires only that employers attest on the I-9 form that the applicant "is eligible to work in the United States," and, if documents have been presented, that they have been examined and "appear to be genuine and relate to the individual."
The measure also contains several other differences from the Arizona law. One of the more notable is that it requires a signed complaint before county attorneys can investigate allegations of illegal hiring.