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Contractors Join Immigration Law Fray

Friday, March 30, 2012

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The American Subcontractors Association of Arizona has joined a group of business associations in challenging that state’s embattled immigration law and is urging immigration reform at the federal level.

Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (S.B. 1070), headed for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on April 25, makes it a crime to be undocumented while in the state. At the time of its passage in 2010, it was the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in recent U.S. history.

 Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce

 Creative Commons / Phoenician Patriot

Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce says his support of the Arizona law is based in part on the principles of his Mormon church. Pearce is shown here at a Tea Party event in 2009 at the Arizona State Capitol.

Espousing a philosophy of "attrition through enforcement," the law requires, among other things, that state police try to determine an individual's immigration status during a stop, detention or arrest when the officer suspects that the individual is an illegal immigrant. It also cracks down on anyone who hires, shelters or transports an illegal immigrant.

Protests and Debates

The measure has ignited intense debate and protests on all sides. Arizona Republicans, including Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the measure into law, argue that Arizona has the right to take its immigration problems into its own hands, saying the federal government has done nothing to stem the tide.

Arizona had about 460,000 illegal immigrants in April 2010, about five times the total of 1990.

The law’s opponents, including President Obama and the Justice Department, criticize the bill on numerous grounds, saying it will lead to racial profiling, drain law-enforcement resources from fighting crime, and infringe upon federal authority.

 Leaders of the immigration reform movement were arrested May 1, 2010, at a sit-in at the railings in front of the White House.

 Creative Commons / Arasmus Photo

Leaders of the immigration reform movement were arrested May 1, 2010, at a sit-in at the railings in front of the White House.

The attorneys general of New York, California and nine other states argued in a brief this week that the law’s enforcement efforts "threaten to sweep in many legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who simply share the same race, ethnicity, or cultural markers as undocumented immigrants common to a particular area."

A federal district court has blocked enforcement of the law's most controversial provisions, leading to the Supreme Court challenge.

The issue of federal authority will be at the center of the Supreme Court case, and the ruling will be watched closely nationwide, especially in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, which have now enacted laws similar to S.B. 1070.

‘Improper’ and ‘Damaging’

The nation’s largest subcontractor association has also come out against the law.

In an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief filed March 26 in the case, ASA of Arizona joined Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform (AZEIR) and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in condemning the law as “an improper exercise of state power, a threat to our national free market economy, and damaging to Arizona’s and the nation’s business reputation.”

The brief argues that S.B. 1070 conflicts with federal authority to regulate immigration, burdens interstate commerce, and discriminates against out-of-state interests.

 Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and President Obama discuss immigration reform and the law signed by Brewer in 2010.

 White House / Pete Souza

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and President Obama discuss immigration reform and the law signed by Brewer in 2010.

The law “does further damage to Arizona’s business climate and reputation, while doing nothing to help fill the real needs for semi-skilled workers with qualified migrant labor,” said ASA member and AZEIR President Sheridan Bailey, of Ironco Enterprises LLC, in Phoenix, AZ.

“Arizona should be focused on building up economic resources, not tearing them down with dishonest rhetoric and harmful legislation.”

‘Broken Immigration System’

ASA has long called for federal-level immigration reform, saying the current patchwork of state immigration laws makes it nearly impossible for painting contractors and other employers who frequently hire immigrants to comply with requirements..

That patchwork includes spotty adoption of E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security’s voluntary online employment eligibility verification system. As of April 1, Alabama becomes the 17th state to adopt e-Verify. Meanwhile, some other states “encourage” the use of e-Verify but do not mandate it, while others actively limit it.

The ASA has been rallying its members to petition Congress to “Fix Our Broken Immigration System.”

Coatings Workers: ‘Big, Growing’ Problem

In a recent, popular poll, 80 percent of PaintSquare News readers called illegal immigrant labor in the paint and coatings industry a growing problem.

Nearly 42 percent said illegal immigration in the industry was a “big” problem, while 24.5 percent called it a “moderate” problem. Only one in five said it was “not much” of a problem and did not appear to be growing.

   

Tagged categories: American Subcontractors Association; Labor; Laws and litigation; Subcontractors

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