Office of House Speaker Mike Hubbard
From: Jason Isbell, Legislative Council
To: Members, Other Concerned Parties
House Republicans recently introduced a revised version of last year’s immigration law. While House Bill 56 has received great support across the state, revisions made to strengthen HB56 have received misguided criticisms from some groups. In effort to clarify proposed changes of House Bill 658, below is a response to false claims that the bill somehow weakens the law when in fact the law is being strengthened.
Opposition to the bill includes the following points:
1. Changing our law is “premature” since Arizona’s law will be before the Supreme Court soon
Making changes to our law is by no means “premature” simply because the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing a challenge to Arizona’s law in June. While there are certain sections of Alabama’s law that will be similar to those sections of Arizona’s law under review by the Court, multiple sections of Alabama’s law will not be impacted in any way by the upcoming Arizona case. In fact, making these changes now will most likely cause injunctions currently imposed on several sections of House Bill 56 to be lifted, whereas waiting to make those changes would cause those sections to otherwise remain unenforceable.
2. Contractors should be “liable for illegal workers on their jobs
3. Citizens should not be prevented from suing state officials “who refuse to enforce” the law
Citizens will still be able to use the court system to force state officials to comply with the law. In Sections 5 and 6, citizens can petition the appropriate local district attorney or the Attorney General to bring an action in circuit court to challenge an official or agency head who fails to comply with the law. If the district attorney or Attorney General receives a petition but fails to timely act on it, he or she will have to publicly justify that decision. With this change in House Bill 658, the chances of frivolous lawsuits will decrease and the proper law enforcement officials will be held just as accountable for enforcing the law as other public officials.
4. Employers who fire workers to hire illegal aliens should not be given “virtual immunity”
The changes to Section 17 of House Bill 658 will by no means give “virtual immunity” to employers. Under the original bill, an employer could have been deemed in violation of the law for failing to hire the least-qualified job applicant they had ever seen. Under House Bill 658, an employer would not be acting discriminatorily if there was a legitimate business reason for not hiring that job applicant. Remember, Section 15 would apply to all employers. In other words, even if an employer has a legitimate business reason for not hiring someone, Section 15 would still bar employers from hiring persons not lawfully present in the country.
5. Schools should compile data showing the costs of educating children of illegal immigrants
House Bill 658 would still require data to be collected in order to quantify the fiscal impact of educating the children of illegal immigrants. But leaving Section 28 of House Bill 56 intact would not have made the law more enforceable because that section would remain enjoined by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The proposed changes get to the heart of the Legislature’s intent – quantifying these educational costs – and allow the injunction to be lifted.
6. Landlords should not be able to knowingly rent to illegal aliens
Similar to the point in #5, House Bill 658’s deletion of the “renting is harboring” language was a necessity brought on by the courts. That language is and will continue to be enjoined by the courts, and its inclusion in Section 13 of House Bill 56 caused the entire section to be enjoined. By leaving the “renting is harboring” language out of House Bill 658, and by making other technical changes, the injunction of Section 13 will likely be lifted. Even still, a landlord who conceals, harbors, or shields from detection (or attempts or conspires to do so) – even if they conceal/harbor/shield through renting – will be liable under Section 13 for their actions.
7. Employers who commit tax fraud by hiring illegal aliens should be guilty of a felony
Section 15 imposes severe penalties on businesses who hire illegal aliens, and any implication to the contrary is false. However, the suggestion to increase tax code penalties on non-compliant businesses has been held by the court to be a penalty that a state is preempted from imposing. We imposed this penalty in Section 16 of House Bill 56, but that section was enjoined. Complying with this suggestion would cause the language to be enjoined again.
8. Employers who refuse to enroll in E-verify should be guilty of a misdemeanor
Again, Section 15 imposes severe penalties on businesses who hire illegal aliens. An employee who refuses to enroll in E-verify does so at his own peril, since properly using E-verify provides a “safe harbor” to businesses who unknowingly hire illegal aliens. Contrary to some suggestions, the penalties of Section 15 not only provide sufficient incentive to enroll in and use E-verify, but also provide sufficient punishment to non-compliant businesses. In stark contrast to such critique, note that Arizona’s law did not make it a misdemeanor if a business entity refused to enroll in E-verify, since such a penalty would be struck down.
9. Businesses enrolled in E-verify should be posted on an appropriate state website
House Bill 658 allows E-verify enrollment to be verified at any time. While one would suggest the posting of that information on a website, Section 23 of House Bill 658 would allow the Department of Homeland Security to request proof of E-verify enrollment from any business, and would give the department the authority to inspect any records related to E-verify enrollment.