Opinion: Nevada's Illegal Immigrant Hiring Law Won't Work

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A new Nevada law that imposes fines on
businesses that employ illegal immigrants can't be enforced, the attorney general's office says.

In an opinion sought by the state Taxation Department, Senior Deputy Attorney Karen Dickerson said AB383 - pushed by her boss, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto during the 2007 session - is pre-empted by federal laws dealing with immigration.

AB383 mainly focuses on combating the trafficking of immigrants, but includes a provision for the Taxation Department to fine employers if the federal government proves they knowingly hired undocumented workers.

In response to the Taxation Department's query in September, Dickerson said earlier this month that federal immigration law "expressly pre-empts state and local laws which impose criminal or
civil sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants, except through licensing and similar laws."

Taxation Director Dino DiCianno said that means AB383 as written can't be carried out, although he will continue to forward complaints about hiring of undocumented workers to the attorney general's office.

During the 2007 session, Cortez Masto told lawmakers that human
trafficking problems were seeping into Nevada and the bill would allow the state to charge "coyotes," smugglers who move human cargo, with felony offenses.

Critics during the session included the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. Lee Rowland of the Nevada ACLU said Monday that she was "heartened that Attorney General Cortez Masto has done the right thing and told the state that this is unenforceable."

"We believe it's bad law and bad policy," Rowland said."Fundamentally, this type of law can encourage discriminatory hiring and employment practices and it has very serious consequences under the 14th Amendment," which requires states to provide equal protection under the law to anyone within their jurisdictions.

Other critics included Fernando Romero, head of Hispanics in Politics, who told lawmakers during the 2007 session that the law would violate rights of employers and employees in Nevada.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said AB383 was "very important" to her and her constituents. She pointed to another provision that ordered the Business and Industry Department to post a link on its Web site to E-Verify, the federal government's tool for verifying the Social Security numbers of workers.

"Our philosophy was there's got to be tools to verify Social Security numbers, and there's got to be ramifications," she said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)