/Capitol Media Services
this country legally - a system they may then impose on all companies in the state.
The proposal, unveiled Wednesday as part of the GOP legislative plan for the session, is part of what Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor said will be a broad-based plan to have the state step in where necessary to cut illegal immigration.
Other elements of that plan include sanctions against private employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers and providing state finances to local law enforcement agencies that voluntarily decide they're willing to enforce federal immigration law.
But Verschoor said that doesn't mean simply throwing state tax dollars at the problem. He said it means targeted programs to do what the federal government is not doing.
"We want to see what gaps there are,'' he said.
"The people of Arizona have made it very clear that if the feds aren't doing it, then we need to step up,'' Verschoor explained.
In November Arizona voters by wide margins approved four measures that directly or indirectly are aimed at curbing the number of people in this state illegally. These range from declaring English the official language of the state to denying certain services to illegal immigrants and requiring those who want to attend community colleges and universities to pay the higher tuition normally charged to residents of other states and countries.
But many legislators of both parties believe that the real magnet attracting people illegally across the border are the jobs offered by U.S. firms.
Current federal law requires only that companies ask for certain documents from would-be employees. But they are not required to independently verify the veracity of those documents.
Facing opposition from business groups, lawmakers rebuffed proposals by some Democrats last year to force employers to use various programs that allow companies to check with federal agencies about a person's legal status.
House Majority Leader Tom Boone said legislators should not impose new requirements on employers until they see for themselves whether the system is too burdensome.
"We believe that we should be showing the way on that,'' he said.
"If government does it, if it can be done appropriately that way, there's no reason why businesses couldn't use the same.''
Verschoor said that doesn't mean private employers are off the hook this year. He said there will be another attempt to punish companies that knowingly hire those not here legally.
But Verschoor, who acknowledged the GOP would work with business interests on the issue, stressed that any legislation would no punish every company with undocumented workers.
"You also have people that are trying to do the right thing but there are really good forged documents out there,'' he said. "S we want to make sure we're not catching people that are trying to do the right thing.''
Lawmakers did approve an employer sanctions bill last year only to have it vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano. She called it "amnesty'' because it allowed companies that fired the illegal workers to escape punishment.
Verschoor said he disagrees with the governor's characterization.
But he promised to work on language that would be acceptable both to businesses as well as the governor.