Lansing — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today its opposition to a planned Michigan House Democrats legislative package that forces business owners to document the legal status of their workers and would make it a felony to hire undocumented workers.

“Some legislators are trying to avert attention from the state’s economy by using undocumented workers as their scapegoat,” said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Employers should not be obligated to enforce immigration policies, especially under threat of a felony conviction if they make a mistake.

"These bills assume, without any basis in fact, that illegal immigrants are taking good paying jobs away from lawful citizens there is no proof of that.  Instead, these laws will only foment ugly sentiments against immigrants and destroy the community’s spirit of tolerance and cooperation.”

This proposed package would require business owners to become experts in distinguishing valid forms of identification from invalid forms, and verify immigration status or determine the authenticity of immigration-related documentation.

It would impose large penalties on business owners who get it wrong, encouraging them to discriminate against anyone they suspect of being here illegally rather than risk the fines and penalties associated with a failure to comply with the ordinance.

In dozens of states across the country, local government officials are attempting to drive immigrants out of their towns by punishing those who employ or rent to individuals who cannot prove their status to the satisfaction of authorities. These laws, intended in part to eliminate wage suppression, have, in some cases, had an opposite effect on the economy.

When city officials in Riverside, NJ adopted the Illegal Immigration Relief Act to prevent undocumented immigrants from renting, residing, using property or being employed, the economy suffered.  A September New York Times story illustrates the real risks to states and localities of trying to penalize those who employ or rent to people in this country illegally.

The Times story, "Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants," found that Riverside, N.J., put its own economy at risk by enacting this law.

Documented and undocumented Immigrants fled to other communities, businesses were boarded up and the departure of so many people caused the economy to suffer while the town also bore the extra expense of lawsuits when a coalition of Riverside business owners, landlords and residents sued the city.

Business owners and landlords decided to challenge the law because they believed it was difficult to comply with and exposed them to enormous risk. They felt it would require them to take unreasonable and expensive measures and possibly invade the privacy of their clients in order to comply, all at great detriment to their businesses. 

Riverside has since rescinded the ordinance because of the legal and economic consequences.

In addition, a federal judge in San Francisco in September blocked the Bush administration from imposing a federal rule requiring employers to fire workers identified as illegal immigrants in government records or face possible prosecution.

Click to read the New York Times Article, Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants.

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