Measure to punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants draws fire |

Measure to punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants draws fire

Associated Press Writer

Lawmakers were urged Monday to approve a bill targeting human traffickers, but two advocacy groups questioned a section of the measure that would punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said Arizona’s problem with human trafficking is seeping into Nevada. She asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass AB383, which would allow state authorities to charge the “coyotes,” or smugglers who move human cargo, with felony offenses.

While some coyotes smuggle people into the United States to perform forced labor or become prostitutes, other smugglers simply hold them captive in order to extort money from their families, Cortez Masto said.

“This is big dollars, just for the transport and procurement,” she said.

The bill also charges the state Tax Commission with the task of punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants. It would allow the commission to fine businesses that unknowingly hire illegals, and strip licenses from those that do so knowingly.

Those fines and license revocations would only come into play after the U.S. attorney general has determined the business violated federal law.

Department of Taxation Director Dino DiCianno said that provision is similar to powers the commission already has to strip licenses of businesses that violate certain laws. But the new rules drew fire from two advocacy groups, whose representatives said that enforcing immigration law should be left to federal authorities.

“It is a bill that is going to violate the rights of businessmen and women, and, needless to say, human beings, employees within the state of Nevada,” said Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics.

Gary Peck, director of the ACLU of Nevada, said the provisions allowing fines were vague and would just discourage businesses from hiring any people with Hispanic surnames.

“I believe the law will be enforced in an uneven way,” said Peck. “I think it’s going to be used to go after businesses that are the least powerful, least politically connected.”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor, said that since Congress still hasn’t taken action on immigration, the state must take action against “those employers who ignore federal immigration laws and exploit human suffering to make a profit.”

The bill also instructs the Department of Business and Industry to provide a link to a federal program allowing employers to verify new workers’ social security numbers, Kirkpatrick pointed out. Employers could use that site to prove that their violation was inadvertent.