The Iowa House has voted to impose tougher penalties on Iowa business owners who knowingly hire an illegal immigrant. The legislation also calls for tougher penalties on those who make or use fake I-Ds. Representative Elesha Gayman, a Democrat from Davenport, says Iowans want legislators to do something.
"Through the campaign and how we all get here we all knock a lot of doors, over 20,000 doors in my campaign, and the one thing that we heard the most was: ‘What do we do about the problem of illegal immigration in this state?’" Gayman says.
The bill also seeks to crackdown on construction contractors hire illegal immigrants, but classify them as independent contractors and pay them in cash. Representative Phil Wise, a Democrat from Keokuk, says it’s a way of getting around laws which forbid illegal immigrants from being a full-time employees.
"Let’s accomplish something by focusing on the construction industry, on the trades where we know people are being exploited by a very, very small minority of unscrupulous contractors," Wise says. Some Republicans ridiculed the bill as nothing more than political cover for Democrats. And some Democrats like
Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames argued the bill was overreaching. "It has been illegal to hire an undocumented immigrant under federal law since 1986…The 1986 law is enforced in spurts, but nonetheless it is a law," Wessel-Kroeschell says. "This is a federal issue. As a state we do not have the authority to deport, protect our borders or regulate immigration."