Legislative leaders say a bill that would dramatically increase penalties for those who illegally employ children will be debated in the Iowa House sometime in the next 10 days.
House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says the bill would send adults found guilty of illegally employing kids to jail for up to 12 months. "It deals directly with the incidents that occurred at Agriprocessors in Postville last summer," Murphy says.
A May 12, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at the meatpacking rounded up hundreds of illegal immigrants who were charged with identity theft, as were some of the plant’s supervisors. Another investigation found children working at the plant, illegally, and fined the company $9.6 million, according to Murphy. "With the bill that we would be doing, it would increase the fine from $100 to $500 per pay period for each violation, so the 96,000 that came to $9.6 million would come up to $50 million under the bill that we’re proposing," Murphy says.
Under current law, adults caught illegally employing children are charged with a simple misdemeanor and can be sentenced to no more than 30 days in jail. The bill makes the crime a serious misdemeanor, which could land the guilty in prison for up to a year.