New Arizona Chief Says He’s Serious About Confronting Illegal Hirings

Jacques Billeaud, AP, Nov. 16, 2006

The federal government is serious about following through on its promise to crack down on employers in Arizona who break the law by hiring illegal immigrants, a top-ranking immigration official said Wednesday.

Some businesses regard the fines they could face for illegal hirings as the price of doing business, so the government will now pursue criminal charges against the most egregious violators, said Alonzo Pena, the new chief of investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.

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With limited resources to crack down on the large number of illegal hirings in Arizona, federal authorities said such prosecutions will help deter other employers who might be thinking about flouting the rules.

The government also is holding classes to teach businesses about employment eligibility rules and how to spot fake documents that a prospective worker might present when applying for a job.

Employers who hire illegal immigrants are blamed for encouraging people to sneak across the border in hopes of finding better paying jobs. Many lawmakers and immigration analysts have given the federal government poor marks in cracking down on illegal hirings.

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Crackdowns could land an especially hard blow on the Arizona economy, where an estimated one in 10 workers is an illegal immigrant.

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Cracking down on illegal hirings is a top priority, said Pena, whose office is responsible for immigration enforcement beyond the borderlands.

“We have to have this second piece—this interior enforcement,” he said.

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