Immigration bill sanctions watered down

CARSON CITY — Senate Judiciary Committee members cut out the most controversial — and meaningful — provisions of a bill Wednesday that had been the Legislature’s only response to illegal immigration.

Members amended out of Assembly Bill 383 sections that would have allowed the state Tax Commission to pull the licenses of Nevada companies that hire illegal immigrants.

They also removed a clause to allow the commission to fine companies that inadvertently hire illegal immigrants.

What was left in the bill was a clause that permits the Tax Commission to levy administrative fines against companies that willfully and flagrantly hire illegal immigrants.

The moves to chop the heart out of the bill came two days after a hearing in which Gary Peck, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill would not be enforced evenhandedly.

Peck predicted the Tax Commission never would pull the licenses of casinos and major developers and instead would pick on small companies without political power.

Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics, contended immigration is a federal matter and the Legislature should not intrude at a time when Congress is developing new immigration policies.

“Maybe it is important to walk before we run,” said Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, after the bill was amended.

He and Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, had expressed concern about allowing the Tax Commission to yank the licenses of companies that hire illegal immigrants.

The bill had been approved 42-0 in the Assembly.

Even if that version of the bill had been approved, it is unlikely that the Tax Commission would have pulled many business licenses.

A clause in the bill prevents the Tax Commission from taking any action against a Nevada company until the U.S. attorney general’s office makes a final decision and issues an order that a state company was hiring illegal workers.

Hiring illegal workers is a federal crime, although the Department of Justice seldom enforces the law.

Assembly Government Affairs Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick was aware the committee heavily amended her bill.

Still, Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said the bill is a step in the right direction.

In approving the amendments to the bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not even set the specific fines the Tax Commission can make against a company that flagrantly hires illegal immigrants.

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said the Tax Commission will approve regulations on fines, which must be approved by legislators before they are put into effect.

Kirkpatrick said she was pleased the Senate committee kept provisions that made human trafficking a felony.

Too often people from Latin America, Russia and other counties are given big promises before they are illegally brought to the United States, she said. Then they are forced into prostitution or slave-like jobs.

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