March 27, 2008
PENALTIES FOR CONNECTICUT EMPLOYERS HIRING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Fellow
You asked about legislation proposed in this session creating penalties for Connecticut employers who hire illegal immigrants, especially related to a law in the state of Arizona addressing this issue.
Since 1972, Connecticut law has penalized employers who knowingly employ aliens not entitled to lawful residence. A first offense is punishable by a fine of $200 to $500. Any subsequent offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $2,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both (CGS § 31-51k).
No bills have been proposed in the 2008 legislative session addressing employment of illegal aliens, but two bills were proposed in the 2007 session. House Bill 5064 raised the penalty to a fine of $1,000 per offense. Proposed Senate Bill 931 made it a criminal offense for contractors to hire undocumented aliens. (The committee bill eliminated the illegal alien provision). Speakers at the public hearings on the bills cited a federal law that preempts state laws regarding employment of illegal aliens. The 1986 Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) preempts “any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens” (8 USC 1324a(h)(2)).
The Arizona law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, authorizes state courts to suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers who intentionally or knowingly employed unauthorized aliens (ARS § 23-212 (A, F)). In February, 2008, the U.S. District Court of Arizona upheld the statute, deciding that it was not preempted by IRCA due to the exception for “licensing and similar laws” (Arizona Contractors Assoc., Inc. v. Candelaria, --- F.Supp.2d ---, 2008 WL 343082 (D.Ariz. 2008)).