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Napolitano skirts taking position on employer-sanctions proposition

November ballot measure calls for more changes

PHOENIX – Gov. Janet Napolitano isn’t taking an explicit position on an Arizona ballot measure to partly rewrite the state’s employer sanctions law but she says that law has already been improved since its enactment in 2007.

Proposition 202, which was put on the Nov. 4 ballot through an initiative campaign by business interests, would make business friendly changes to the sanctions law, which prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Napolitano has taken public positions on about half of this year’s statewide ballot measures but Proposition 202 isn’t going to be one of them.

Illegal immigration remains a major concern in Arizona, the nation’s busiest crossing point for illegal immigrants in recent years, but the issue has not been a front-burner political issue this election campaign.

“I’m going to let the voters make up their own minds,” Napolitano said when questioned Tuesday about Proposition 202 during her weekly availability with reporters.

While declining to take a position on the measure, Napolitano did say that changes approved by the Legislature last spring – and signed into law by her – improved the law.

“Whether that needs to be enshrined by initiative, that I’m not taking a position on. I do think the Legislature improved the employer sanctions law and made it a better law this spring,” Napolitano said.

If approved by voters, Proposition 202′s changes to the sanctions law would be protected by the Arizona Constitution’s shield for voter-approved laws.

Any subsequent changes made by lawmakers would have to track the measure’s intended purpose.

While the sanctions law is widely credited with helping reduce illegal immigration into Arizona, Napolitano said it remains to be seen whether the sanctions law has actually had a deterrent effect on illegal border crossers.

“I don’t think we know yet,” she said, citing stepped-up border enforcement and the economic downturn.

Proposition 202 would not affect the current law’s penalties of suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that knowingly or intentionally hire illegal immigrants.

The proposed changes include tightening a rule on reporting violations, raising the standard for proving cases and strengthening a legal protection for those who follow the law.

Proposition 202 supporters say it would change the sanctions law to target dishonest employers and protect honest ones.

Critics say Proposition 202 would make it difficult to take violators to court.

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