PHOENIX - Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed an immigration bill Tuesday, calling the measure "weak and ineffective'' and saying it would have given amnesty to companies that hire undocumented workers.
Sponsors called the bill a comprehensive border security and immigration solution.
The veto came as no surprise as Napolitano has previously vetoed some of the provisions sent to her individually. For example, HB 2577 would have allowed people who are in this country in violation of federal law to be arrested and prosecuted under state law as trespassers. Napolitano said that is both unconstitutional and opposed by many police departments and county attorneys.
And the governor noted that the federal government is finally stepping up to its responsibilities with moves to station National Guard troops along the border.
But in her two-page veto letter addressed to House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, Napolitano raised a new issue: She said a provision that sponsors said would punish companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers was not only toothless but actually amounted to amnesty.
"All the employer must do to claim this amnesty is fire the illegal worker within 10 days of receiving a cease and desist order from the Attorney General,'' Napolitano wrote. "Under this bill, an employer that simply complies with the order upon receipt pays no fine, risks no jail time, and can continue with normal business operations as if nothing has happened.''
And Napolitano said the chances of a company even getting such an order would have been minimal at best. She said Attorney General Terry Goddard said he would need $11 million annually to audit up to 5 percent of companies with state licenses.
Lawmakers provided just $2 million.
Napolitano was riled by another section of the bill that says if an employer who is complying with the law is sued by a worker who is fired, taxpayers have to pay any expenses — including any damages awarded against the company.
"The taxpayer would have to pay these fees even if the employee who sues was in fact here illegally,'' the governor wrote.
"If anything, these provisions encourage, rather than deter, illegal hiring in Arizona,'' she continued. "Real sanctions are supposed to mean the lawbreaker pays a penalty, not that he gets paid by taxpayers."
Republican legislative leaders were preparing a response Tuesday. One possibility they have discussed is bypassing the governor and putting at least parts of the package — if not the entire measure — on the November ballot.