Friday, February 06, 2009

Report Details Troubling Impact of Arizona Employer Sanctions Law

The real impact of the “Legal Arizona Workers Act” stretches beyond attempts to curtail the employment of undocumented immigrant workers and has hurt the state’s social, cultural and economic viability. Entire families have left the state, children have not returned to their classrooms, and workers have reported labor abuses, threats and harassment.

A report by AFSC's Tucson-based program, Sanctioning Arizona: The Hidden Impacts of Arizona’s Employer Sanctions Law, relies on a grassroots community survey of almost 400 immigrant workers to shed light on the multiple, layered negative impacts of the law. Key findings reveal how the quality of life of families (including US-born children) has been disrupted with the enactment of the legislation:
  • There is substantial and widespread confusion about the specific provisions in the law, leaving workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. 46% of respondents were unclear as to whether current employees are subject to verification using the E-Verify federal database. This makes it very easy for employers to misuse the program.
  • Employers have misapplied the law, both intentionally and unintentionally. Almost 30% of respondents were asked by their current employer to provide documents, in some cases before the law even went into effect.
  • Nearly 20% (1 in 5 workers) of respondents were asked to provide documents by prospective employers, before they were hired.
  • The law, or fear of it, has had a harmful impact on the quality of life of immigrant workers, families and the community at large. Almost 40% of respondents report that they do not go out as much, due to fear of being stopped and questioned by local police, border patrol agents or Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers.
  • The law has had a disastrous impact on children: Almost 10% of respondents reported that they are caring for someone else’s children due to the parents leaving the state, being detained, or deported. 16% say they have taken their child(ren) out of school.
The report asserts that confusion on the part of employers is leading to a variety of abuses that are not allowed under either the new law or existing labor law. Moreover, the new law is being applied incorrectly, either because employers attempted to enforce it before it was officially law, or are applying it retroactively to workers who already work for the company.

In addition, US-born and naturalized immigrants are being laid off. Even more disturbing are reports that a few unscrupulous employers are using the law as an excuse to cheat workers out of wages they rightly earned, knowing that they do not dare complain.

AFSC’s report calls for an immediate suspension of the law, so that the abuses detailed in the report can be more fully investigated. According to Caroline Issacs, director of the Tucson program, “We are confident that our findings and conclusions can be substantiated and call for a permanent repeal of this law. Our interviews with immigrant families and workers show that the law is poorly understood, has led to labor and workplace abuses that have been ignored or gone unnoticed. This is not in the best interest of our state, and not in the interest of any worker. We urge our state lawmakers to correct this situation.”

To read the report visit or contact AFSC at 520-623-9141.