Sarah N. Lynch, Tribune
Rep. Russell Pearce and the leaders of several prominent anti-illegal immigration groups urged citizens Tuesday to collect signatures for two ballot initiatives that would punish employers who hire undocumented workers and give local police more tools to crack down on illegal immigration.
Despite the misgivings of some local business owners and law enforcement, the Mesa Republican, a top critic of illegal immigration, told journalists and his supporters at the state Capitol that Arizona voters can no longer wait for something to be done about the immigration problem.
The first initiative, which resembles a bill currently stalled in the Senate, would grant the state the authority to permanently revoke the business licenses of anyone who knowingly hires illegal immigrants. Companies would have to verify the legal status of employees through a database known as a basic pilot program.
The second initiative means anyone found to be in the state illegally could be charged with trespassing. In addition, it would require local and state law enforcement to ask about the legal status of anyone they encounter, from suspects to victims of crimes. According to the ballot language, any agency that tries to limit its officers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status would be “ineligible for state funding.”
Pearce is aiming to bring the issues to voters on the 2008 ballot.