As the days count down to the start of Arizona’s employer sanctions law, East Valley cities are struggling to get ready for their duties despite a litany of questions and a pending lawsuit.
Gilbert and Mesa already have registered with the national online database to check immigration status of employees, and Scottsdale is in the process of determining how to handle any resulting suspensions of city business licenses.
The law going into effect Jan. 1 states that no employers “shall knowingly employ unauthorized aliens.”
If a county attorney finds that an employer has violated the law, the court will order the appropriate agencies — including cities — to suspend all licenses until the employer has signed a sworn affidavit.
The affidavit would state that the employer has fired the illegal immigrant and will not knowingly hire another.
In the case of a second violation, all licenses held by the employer would be permanently revoked.
Employers can check the status of employees through the Employment Eligibility Verification program, which matches information submitted on the employment Form I-9 with the databases of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
To help Arizona cities prepare for implementation, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns sent a checklist to all municipalities.
“We wanted to boil it down — how you register according to the new law — that would help all employers, not just cities and towns make sure they’re in compliance,” said Jeff Kros, legislative director for the league.
But questions still remain on how exactly cities will implement the new law, such as what kind of license would be pulled from a violating employer.
“We haven’t really addressed that, and we’re working with a number of different sources,” Kros said. “We’re going to comply with it the best way we can.”
Gilbert is not expecting a big change when the law takes effect, since it already has safeguards in place to prevent hiring an illegal immigrant, said town spokesman Greg Svelund.
“We don’t anticipate that’s going to be a problem,” he said.
Mesa started looking into the program last spring, said City Attorney Alfred Smith.
“We knew we needed to start being proactive,” he said.
In Scottsdale, “We are still trying to clarify what our role would be,” said city spokesman Mike Phillips.
Other questions about the law are currently under examination in U.S. District Court.
A lawsuit filed by attorney David Selden on behalf of several business and Hispanic groups claims the law is unconstitutional and seeks to stop it from going into effect.
Other particulars include whether the law applies to current employees or only to people hired after Jan. 1, Selden said.
As written, the law says it applies to all employees. But the online database is only to be used for new hires.
“The draftsmanship is worse than a D-minus,” Selden said.
A judgment on the lawsuit could come as early as next week.