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Arizona goes after illegal hires

A new law that penalizes employers with illegal workers – if done right – is a model for the US.

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A new law in Arizona that takes effect Jan. 1 aims to punish employers who hire workers without valid US residency. Even though this experiment is by only one state trying to fix only one piece of the US immigration puzzle, the law may provide answers for the whole nation.

Arizona stands out in illegal hires – about 10 to 12 percent of the workforce. This border state with only 6.2 million people has more illegal immigrants than Illinois or New York. Two-thirds of Arizona's foreign-born population are not in the US legally, and the vast majority of them live at or near the poverty level.

The political impetus behind the law is due in large measure to the state's social services being overwhelmed in recent years by a flood of migrants evading tighter border security in California and Texas. The state, in other words, may represent the United States of the future, unless more is done to address the problem of both illegal (too much) and legal (too little) immigration. Since 2000, the US has seen its highest increase in immigrants, but more than half were illegal.

Arizona is doing the US a favor by going after the prime magnet for border-crossers – companies that offer jobs without checking an applicant's legal status. The new law's punch lies in taking away a business's license if the employer is caught more than once with illegal workers (even ones with fake documents). A similar enforcement effort by the US Homeland Security Department is barely off the ground.

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