A bid to close-down Iowa businesses that employ illegal immigrants has cleared an initial hurdle at the statehouse.
If the bill becomes law, an Iowa business caught with an illegal immigrant on its payroll would be placed on probation. If caught within the next three years of employing another illegal immigrant, the state would strip that business of its license to operate in Iowa. Representative Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, says federal officials aren’t “vigorously” enforcing the rules and Iowa businesses competing against firms that hire cheaper illegal immigrant labor are paying the price.
“Now obviously that’s not fair,” Garrett says. “You shouldn’t be penalized for obeying the law.”
Representative Glen Massie, a Republican from Des Moines, says the issue has been ignored for years and illegal immigrants have become a burden on the state.
“The people I work with, they resent the fact there are a lot of tax dollars that are confiscated from their paychecks and given to people who may not be here legally,” Massie says. “That’s a little difficult to swallow.”
Massie and Garrett are part of a three-person subcommittee that gave its approval to the proposal late this fternoon. The third member of the panel, Representative Mary Wolfe — a Democrat from Clinton, is a co-sponsor of the bill, but after negative feedback she’s having reservations.
“I’m wondering why we couldn’t just make it Iowa law that folks have to use the E-Verify system and leave out all this stuff about enforcement,” Wolfe said.
She refused to sign-off on the bill. Several critics spoke out during today’s subcommittee meeting. Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference said his group is opposed to the bill for both “philosophical and practical” reasons.
“If you’re interested in small government, this is a big government bill,” Chapman said. “It gets the government at the federal level with (an E-Verify) database involved in every hiring instance in the state of Iowa and I think we ought to think twice about that.”
Eric Tabor, the top deputy in the Iowa Attorney General’s office, argued the federal government should be the enforcer of immigration policy.
“What this bill does is it imposes a substantial burden on the attorney general’s office and on county attorneys and, presumably, on police to do these investigations,” Tabor said.
The bill asks Iowa officials to be investigators of complaints about the alleged hiring of illegal immigrants. Norwalk Police Chief Eddie Kuhl was the only person in the crowd who spoke in favor of the proposal. He said it can help crack down on identity theft.
“I think it’s a good thing, anything that we can do to deter that kind of criminal activity and would eliminate the victimization of our people,” Kuhl said.
This bill is fashioned after a law in Arizona which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled is constitutional. There is another, more controversial Arizona law which requires police — when they’re enforcing other laws — to question a person’s immigration status if the police suspect that person may be in the country illegally. That law is on hold, however, pending the outcome of court appeals.