PHOENIX – Arizona legislators approved a bill to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants by suspending or revoking their government licenses, a step that would put violators out of business at least temporarily.
Passage of the bill sent it to Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and capped a three-year push on the issue, a top priority for Republican majority lawmakers during the current session.
The House and Senate approved a compromise drafted earlier Wednesday by a conference committee appointed to iron out differences in versions of the bill approved previously by the two chambers.
The House vote was 47-11. The Senate’s was 20-4.
Members of the conference committee said they hoped to head off a proposed ballot measure with stricter sanctions also targeting businesses’ licenses issued by state and local governments.
Under the bill, HB2779, first-time offenders who knowingly hire illegal immigrants would be put on probation for three years, have to file quarterly reports on hirings and could have their licenses suspended for up to 10 days.
While second-time offenders would have their licenses permanently revoked, just suspensions would be enough to kill some businesses, lawmakers said.
Advocates for tougher border enforcement contend that the employer sanctions were needed because the federal government has failed to adequately enforce a federal law that already prohibits employers from intentionally hiring illegal immigrants.
Jessica Pacheco, a lobbyist for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged legislators to reject the bill.
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