TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney and Senator John H. Adler today said the bill they have introduced to punish firms that knowingly hire illegal aliens is needed because the federal government has failed to enforce national immigration laws.
“We have to do this because federal immigration officials are not enforcing existing laws on the national level,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “It’s our goal to support people who play by the rules. It’s not fair for companies to hire illegal workers who, in many cases, are forced to accept cheaper wages.”
Senator Sweeney said he plans to welcome a full review of the bill, S-1312, by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy which was created last year to recommend strategies for “integrating New Jersey’s growing immigrant population into the life of this State.”
“We believe New Jersey should continue to encourage legal immigrants to embrace our State, to take full advantage of our educational opportunities and to fulfill their own American Dreams – right here,” Senator Sweeney said. “I hope the Governor’s Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy gives the bill a full review because I would welcome its input.”
Under the bill, companies that knowingly hire illegal aliens would have their licenses to do business in New Jersey suspended for 10 days and second offenses would carry permanent revocations.
If passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor, the proposal would take effect next January 1. The measure is modeled after an Arizona law which, to date, has withstood several legal challenges. In a case involving the Arizona law, a federal judge rejected claims that it usurped the federal government’s right to regulate immigration and found that federal law specifically grants states the right to regulate business licensing.
“The targets of this proposal, as far as I’m concerned, are the businesses that knowingly act to cheat the system and deprive workers of a fair and decent wage for jobs which should rightfully be available to our legal residents,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland.
New Jersey’s illegal population was last set by the federal government at 430,000 in 2006, but has since grown to nearly 500,000, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group favoring restrictions on illegal immigration.
The bill was introduced on Thursday, Feb. 21, and is expected to be assigned for consideration by the Senate Labor Committee.