On the same day it passed a bill seeking harsher penalties for those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, the Arizona House of Representatives fired an employee suspected of entering the United States illegally.
A Republican spokesman revealed the twist late Friday when the House was not in session.
The man, whom the Tribune has declined to name because he has not been arrested for a crime, was hired in December as a janitor.
His boss fired him Thursday after the man admitted he was not a legal U.S. resident, said House Republican spokesman Barrett Marson.
The week before, the state flagged the man’s name and other Arizona employees and Rep. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, for discrepancies with their Social Security numbers.
Marson said the others were able to account for their discrepancies, but the janitor was not.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, spokesman Lt. Paul Chagolla said. Deputies have been arresting illegal immigrants on suspicion of human smuggling.
Chagolla said the former employee has not been arrested, and investigators likely will work with federal immigration authorities.
The state Department of Administration is supposed to check for such discrepancies once a month. It was unclear late Friday why the janitor’s information wasn’t flagged until March. Department officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Under HB2779, now in the Senate, businesses found intentionally hiring illegal immigrants could be charged with felonies, ordered to pay huge fines or even forced to close.
Marson emphasized the House did not knowingly hire a suspected illegal immigrant.
Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, the bill’s sponsor, said he didn’t know of the worker’s firing until contacted by the Tribune.
“This really upsets me,” he said. And regarding the Department of Administration, he said, “If they’re not doing their job, then that upsets me.”