A New Jersey Senate leader said he will push legislation to punish businesses who knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney said his decision comes after a federal judge upheld an Arizona law that prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and yanks the business licenses of those that do.
“Companies that knowingly hire illegals are destroying job opportunities for the working men and women of New Jersey,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “The practice has to be stopped.”
The Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2003 estimated that New Jersey had 221,000 illegal immigrants, though the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors tighter border security and immigration laws, estimates the state has 490,000.
New Jersey has about 8.7 million residents and 4.1 million workers.
Under Sweeney’s measure, which he said he will introduce next week, first-time offenders would have their business licenses suspended for 10 days.
Second offenses would bring permanent revocations, Sweeney said.
In approved, the law would take effect at the end of the year and require employers to verify the legal status of their work forces.
“New Jersey should welcome legal immigrants with open arms, but we need to put up a stop sign for illegals who undermine family, educational and health care support systems,” Sweeney said.
The proposal worries businesses, said Jim Leonard, a vice president with the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
“We feel immigration is an issue best handled on the federal level,” Leonard said. “Creating a patchwork of laws on this issue throughout the nation makes it even more difficult to run a business.”
John Rogers, a vice president with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said employers are prohibited from asking certain information about an employee’s background while hiring and are legally required to take Social Security cards that appear valid.
“I fear that another New Jersey-only bill will unfairly ask the employer community to shoulder increased liability and be responsible for what is a national problem,” Rogers said.
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