Democrats and Republicans at the statehouse are feuding over a bill that would penalize Iowa business owners who’re caught hiring illegal immigrants. The penalty — perjury — carries a five-year prison sentence and a $7,500 fine. Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City says once a valid I.D. system is set up, there should be no reprieve for a businessperson who hires an undocumented worker.
“If we give businesses the tools to make certain that they’re hiring legal immigrants, we need to take it to the wall and that would be to shut the business down,” Wieck says. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City isn’t going so far as to call for closing the doors of businesses caught hiring illegal immigrants, but Rants says the $7,500 fine for committing such a crime isn’t high enough.
“Iowa has certain responsibilities to deal with our own employers and protect our own taxpayers and we should look for those opportunities to deal with it here in Iowa,” Rants says. “You talk to Iowans and they don’t think that we can just sit on our hands and do nothing because the federal government hasn’t addressed this issue strongly enough.”
A previous version of the bill called for up to a year in prison for C.E.O.’s caught hiring illegal immigrants, but the bill which won approval in a House committee this week stipulated a prison sentence of up to five years.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says Republicans had been critical of a previous version of the bill because it was too tough on Iowa C.E.O.’s. “So I have no idea where that rhetoric’s coming from,” McCarthy says. “It sounds like political hyperbole.”
McCarthy says if Republicans now want higher fines for business owners who hire illegal immigrants, they can vote for that move when the bill comes up for debate. Business groups have gone to court to challenge an Arizona law which calls for shutting businesses down in that state if they’re caught employing illegal immigrants.