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Sunday, February 17, 2008

N.J. law would sanction employers of illegals

In what could end up being landmark legislation for a state as as progressive as New Jersey, leading state Senate Democrats announced this week that they are crafting legislation that would punish New Jersey companies employing undocumented immigrants.

"Companies that knowingly hire illegals are destroying job opportunities for the working men and women of New Jersey," said Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland. "This practice has to be stopped."

Specifics have not been worked out yet, but it looks like the set of laws would punish first-time offending companies by revoking business licenses for 10 days, preventing them from doing business in New Jersey.

Repeat offenders would permanently lose their business licenses, making the commonplace practice of hiring undocumented immigrants a potentially costly one for many state companies.

Mercer County's own Route 1 corridor boasts some of the most frequent offenders, in restaurants and landscaping businesses, which frequently hire undocumented workers with the most rudimentary of documentation in the form of fake Social Security cards and other false papers.

The problem of undocumented immigrants has grown exponentially in recent years for New Jersey, with some estimates pegging the number of undocumented, mainly South American nationals living in New Jersey at 500,000, out of a population of more than eight million.

Mr. Sweeney said that he hopes to have the legislation completed in the second half of 2008, and after passage all New Jersey employers would be required to verify the legal status of all of their employees.

The new law does have precedence, with a similar Arizona statute already in place.

The constitutionality of that measure was upheld recently by U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake, who refuted a claim that the Arizona law interfered with federal regulation of immigration, based on federal law that gives the 50 states to regulate business licensing in connection with immigration status.

"People complain about illegal immigrants, but the federal government is not enforcing its own statutes," said Sen. Sweeney. "With my bill, New Jersey would join Arizona as the only states thus far to impose sanctions against businesses who knowingly hire illegal immigrants."

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