ACLU of Arizona Urges Lake Havasu Council Members to Reject Proposed Anti-Immigrant Ordinance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHOENIX – In a letter sent today to members of the Lake Havasu City Council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona urged city officials to reject a proposal to impose a citywide, employee-eligibility verification system regarding the hiring of immigrants. According to the ACLU, the proposed ordinance violates the constitutional principle that local government cannot override federal law and will hurt the local economy by imposing financial burdens on local employers.
“Establishing a permission-to-work system that imposes criminal sanctions on local employers in addition to those imposed by the federal government will be costly for Lake Havasu employers, employees and the local economy and will do nothing to actually staunch the flow of undocumented immigrants into Arizona,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Employers who choose to do business with the city will bear an enormous financial burden. The real implication of this proposed ordinance is that overall tax revenue benefiting Lake Havasu City and its residents will be decreased because of lost wages.”
The proposed ordinance would impose additional requirements for local city contractors for verification and retention of employment documents, thereby creating two separate regulatory schemes at both the local and federal levels. It would impose criminal and civil penalties on local employers in addition to those imposed by the federal government. The ACLU argued that these additional requirements undermine the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration laws.
“It is well settled law that the federal government has the exclusive authority to regulate immigration and thus determine whether and under what circumstances individuals may enter, stay in, or work in the United States, and that localities cannot choose to author their own immigration rules,” wrote ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Dan Pochoda on behalf of the ACLU. “Federal law already prohibits the hiring and continued employment of undocumented immigrants, and includes civil and criminal penalties against employers who hire undocumented immigrants. In this legislation, Congress expressly preempted local governments from passing regulations that infringe on this federal authority.”
The proposed ordinance conflicts with existing federal law that sets carefully considered standards as to who is an immigrant and how workers can prove that they are authorized to work in the United States. For instance, if the proposed ordinance passes, military personnel, who under federal law may use a U.S. Military Card to establish their identity, would not be allowed to do so in Lake Havasu City. Similarly, Native Americans would no longer be able to use tribal documents to establish employment eligibility.
The letter to Lake Havasu City Council members is below.
February 27, 2007
Mayor and City Council
Lake Havasu City Municipal Offices
2330 McCulloch Blvd N
Lake Havasu City, Arizona 86403
BY FACSIMILE AND FIRST CLASS MAIL
Re: Opposition to Proposed Ordinance 07-869
Dear Mayor Nexsen and Council Members Wedemeyer, Aldridge, McAtlin, Nyberg, Schilling and Sturtevant:
We write to express our strong opposition to proposed Ordinance 07-869. The proposed legislation is riddled with constitutional flaws and ignores the supremacy of federal law in the area of immigration regulation. We urge you to vote “no” on this legislation and re-consider this costly, illegal and impractical course of action.
Lake Havasu City does not have the constitutional authority to implement this Ordinance. This bill attempts to change federal immigration law by adding new requirements and new sanctions. It conflicts with existing federal requirements on employers to verify the immigration status of their employees. Any valid local concerns can be addressed without resorting to this expansive regime and additional penalties.
It is well settled law that the federal government has the exclusive authority to regulate immigration and thus determine whether and under what circumstances individuals may enter, stay in, or work in the United States, and that localities cannot choose to author their own immigration rules. Federal law already prohibits the hiring and continued employment of undocumented immigrants, and includes civil and criminal penalties against employers who hire undocumented immigrants. In this legislation, Congress expressly preempted local governments from passing regulations that infringe on this federal authority.
Experience and studies demonstrate that the proposed Lake Havasu Ordinance would also lead to discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds “foreign,” regardless of their actual citizenship status. Should this bill pass, there will be a rise in discrimination against United States citizens and non-citizens in Lake Havasu City who appear to be from certain other countries.
Lake Havasu City is exposing employers to serious liability under federal civil rights laws and under the additional sanctions contained in the legislation. Lake Havasu City employers and contractors, and “owners”, would be placed in the difficult position of attempting to comply with legislation containing many provisions that are vague and overbroad. Training sessions and educational materials cannot cure the underlying problem with the language and the potentially far-reaching impacts including application of civil and criminal sanctions.
Lake Havasu City should not seek to become the untrained and unfunded enforcement arm of the federal immigration system. The interest in uniformity and fairness of application is precisely why the courts have long held that immigration law is under the exclusive province of the federal government. The decision of a local government to single out this area of federal law would raise questions about the underlying motivation.
We understand that the Lake Havasu City Council may introduce this proposed legislation this week with possible passage after thirty days. We therefore respectfully request that you give this matter your urgent attention and respond to us prior to the next hearing on the proposed legislation. You may contact Dan Pochoda by phone at (602) 650-1854, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank you for your consideration of our concerns.
Alessandra Soler Meetze
ACLU of Arizona
ACLU of Arizona
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