Employer-sanctions law to be debated
A controversial Arizona state law that punishes employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers will be debated Jan. 29 at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
"Employer Sanctions and the Legal Arizona Workers Act," a panel discussion presented by the Arizona State University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, will be held from 12:15-1:15 p.m. on Tuesday. The event, free and open to the public, will be in Room 105 in Armstrong Hall.
Panelists are Paul Eckstein, a partner at Perkins Coie Brown & Bain in Phoenix, Tim La Sota, special assistant deputy county attorney in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Mary O'Grady, Arizona State Solicitor General, and Julie Pace, a partner at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Phoenix. The discussion will be moderated by law professor Betsy Grey.
Adopted last year by the Arizona Legislature and enacted Jan. 1, the statute has been called the most severe employer-sanctions law in the nation. Opponents, among them hoteliers, restaurateurs and other business owners, contend the act is unconstitutional in its attempts to regulate immigration.
Eckstein, who represents Wake Up Arizona!, a pro-business group and plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the new statute, said the law is pre-empted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and violates the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment.
"An employer who is convicted of violating the Arizona act may have his business license suspended for 10 days on a first offense and permanently on a second offense," he said. "Those sanctions, under the Arizona act, are much more severe than the sanctions under the federal law. Even a 10-day suspension can be a death knell to a business."
La Sota said federal law prevents states from imposing civil or criminal penalties other than those in the realm of licensing laws.
"We're confident the law is constitutional," he said. "There's a clear provision in federal law that permits states to enact these types of laws."
Arizona's 15 county prosecutors recently agreed not to take complaints filed under the employer-sanctions law to court until March 1. That will give U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake time to rule on a challenge by business and immigrant-rights groups that hope he will overturn the law. A decision from Wake is expected by early February.
At Tuesday's presentation, the panelists will discuss the law's constitutionality, its effect on the state's business and immigrant communities and other issues. Grey said the law and Wake's decision have huge implications for society.
"It's a huge issue and will have an enormous impact on our business community and our economy in Arizona," she said. "Other states are watching very closely to see what's going to happen to this challenge, and I predict, ultimately, this will be settled in the United States Supreme Court."