Arizona Business Death Penalty Enacted

This Tuesday, Arizona's death penalty goes into effect for businesses that knowingly hire workers who have not been licensed to work by the US Government.  Employers must use the e-Verify system the Federal government has in place to confirm which human beings are allowed by the federal government to work in this country and which people businesses are not allowed to employ.  Businesses that don't face loss of their business license (in itself a bit of government permission to perform consensual commerce I should not have to obtain).

There are any number of ironies in this law:

  • The Arizona government has resisted applying the same tight standards to receipt of government benefits, meaning the state is more comfortable with immigrants seeking government handouts than gainful employment.
  • The state of Arizona resists asking for any sort of ID from voters.  This means that the official position of the state of Arizona is that it is less concerned about illegal immigrants voting and receiving benefits than it is about making sure these immigrants don't support themselves by working.  This is exactly the opposite of what a sane proposal would look like. (and here)
  • In the past, we have used Arizona drivers licenses to verify citizenship.  By implementing this law, the Arizona Government has said that an Arizona driver's license is not sufficient proof of citizenship.  Unable to maintain the integrity of their own system (e.g. the drivers license system) the state has effectively thrown up its hands and dumped the problem on employers
  • The e-verify system, which the law requires businesses use, currently disappears in 11 months.
  • The law requires that the e-Verify system be used for both current and new employees.  It is, however, illegal under federal law to use the e-Verify system on current employees.
  • In fact, the e-Verify system may only be used within 3 days of hire -- use it earlier or later, and one is violating the law.  In a particular bit of comedy, it is illegal to use the e-Verify system to vet people in the hiring process.  The government wants you to entirely complete the expensive hiring process before you find out the person is illegal to hire.
  • There are apparently no new penalties for hiring illegal immigrants at your house (since there is no business license to lose).  State legislators did not want to personally lose access to low-cost house cleaning and landscaping help.  We're legislators for God sakes -- we aren't supposed to pay the cost of our dumb laws!

I have criticized the AZ Republic a lot, but they have pretty comprehensive coverage on this new law here and here.

Update:  Typical of the government, the e-Verify registration site is down right now.

Update #2:  It appears Arizona is taking a page from California's book.  California often passes regulations that it hopes businesses will follow nationally rather than go through the expense of creating different products or product packaging for California vs. the other states.  Arizona may be doing something of the same thing, since the terms of use for e-Verify require that if a business uses e-Verify, it must use if for all employees.  Therefore, a business that has any employees in Arizona is technically required to use this system for all employees nationwide.

Update #3:  By the way, I guess I have never made my interest in this issue clear.  We do not hire any illegal immigrants.  Since most of our positions require employees to live on site in their own RV, it is seldom an issue since the average illegal immigrant does not own an RV.  We have always done all of our I-9 homework, even though the government stopped auditing I-9's about 8 years ago.  We have in fact been asked about five times by foreigners to hire them under the table without having the licenses and papers they need from the US government -- all of them have been Canadian.


  1. David B:

    According to the I-9 form, a drivers' license has never been proof of eligibility to work and/or citizenship: for that you need a birth certificate, passport, green card, etc. A DL is proof of identity.

  2. Jon N:

    Absolutely fascinating that the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation is the one spending the most effort keeping people from coming to get jobs. Most anti-immigration arguments are 1) they take jobs from Americans or 2) they cost a lot in services without contributing.

    The unemployment rate is so low that it's hard to justify #1. And a program like this is in direct opposition to #2. As you said, to solve that problem you would prioritize the checking of eligibility of benefits instead of the eligibility to work.

    I hate when people claim racism for everything... but I'm having a hard time denying it on this one.

  3. Sameer Parekh:

    Good post, many good points. But I would like to lay claim to having used "death penalty" terminology first, 07/17/2007. Thank you. =)


  4. dave smith:

    Hey, Sameer, do you spent alot of time scowering the internet for people who use the same words as you?

    By the way, Human Events has a "Ron Paul is a nut" post on their blog that was posted months before yours. Looks about the same as yours too.

  5. Kresh:

    "I hate when people claim racism for everything... but I'm having a hard time denying it on this one."

    Well, look at it from the point of one who works for a company that has questionable employees. Months ago we received from the state a notice that companies were not legally allowed to fire employees that provided counterfeit identification. My boss nearly went insane when that one showed up. So now with the E-Verify system, which can only be used for new hires, there is a glimmer that we might be able to do something about those that break the law. No, it's not a huge law, but it is a law that is important.

    It's not about racism, it's about all about keeping the respect for the law intact. If those who are supposed to enforce that law are unwilling or unable to do so, why should anyone care about the law? It is being thrown on the shoulders of the AZ business community, but we'd be willing to do something, as opposed to politicians who seem paralyzed at the slightest sign of protest or indignation.

    Then again, it's not going to work that well. Good intentions too late are not enough, and strangling those who shouldered the burden for so long is not wise policy. It's going to take more than this to solve any of the issues associated with the illegal immigration problem.

    Again, it's not racism. Looks can be deceiving.

  6. Josh:

    Given all the conflicting requirements, it looks like it will become harder than ever to run a business and actually comply with the law.

    This reminds me of a story I read last millennium about Dell. They wanted to do business in Russia, but since the business climate there is so corrupt, it's impossible to compete and to obey the laws at the same time. The standard practice is to break certain laws as necessary but to have the proper political contacts, so you can distribute bribes as necessary. So Dell set up shop just across the border in Sweden and cultivated relationships with Russian distributors who would do the dirty work, and Dell could continue to be a law-abiding company.

    I'm sure that both Dell and Russia prospered significantly less than they would have in a more law-observant environment. Laws like these, which are more thoughtless and lazy than malicious, encourage corruption here.

  7. RJP:

    Two quick observations:

    Everytime I've voted in Arizona (Chandler) during the two years I've lived here, I've been asked for photo ID.

    Dell setting up shop 'just across the border in Sweden' would be a neat trick as Finland sits between Russia and Sweden.


  8. Allen in Fort Worth:

    The requirement that the system may only be used within 3 days of a hire is stark raving nuts. Do they really want all the low-skill jobs and industries to go to China? (I'm as free market as the next guy, but for efficiency reasons, not because the owners of e-verify need work....)
    This 3-day requirement has all the marks of a committee compromise to keep the system from being used against current employees.
    If Arizona was a stock, I'd sell it.

  9. arizona auto insurance:

    Reports are illegals are heading to Ok and TX, among other states. It will be very interesting to see how that affects our economy and jobs. We've had alot of complaining about illegals. Now we get to see the impact of many of them having departed.

  10. John David Galt:

    Isn't there a legal precedent that a state cannot require anyone to break federal law?

  11. mosborn2020:

    I think the arizona authorities are being a bit too impractical about the e verification thing because the present workforce might not be in the federal database and still having the permit.
    Mark Osborn
    Addiction Recovery Arizona

  12. johnnysmith:

    good post very useful information...keep it up.

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