Enforcement actions under the new Arizona Legal Workers Act have been put on hold until March 1, 2008. During a hearing in front of U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake on Wednesday, January 16, 2008, Arizona’s 15 county attorneys agreed to wait until the end of February before prosecuting any complaints filed under the new law. There are no guarantees, however, that law enforcement agencies will refrain from investigating complaints that employers have hired unauthorized workers.

The Act, which allows for suspension and revocation of licenses of businesses that knowingly employ unauthorized workers, has been discussed in detail in prior Ogletree Deakins client alerts. The law mandates that employers use the federal E-Verify program during the hiring process.

One of the primary issues discussed during the Wednesday hearing involved the question of exactly which employees are covered under the landmark law. Attorneys for both sides appeared to agree that the language of the statute applies to all employees, not just employees hired since the law took effect on January 1, 2008. Judge Wake appeared to disagree, reasoning that the law, when read as a whole, is meant to apply only to new hires.

Employers should have an answer to that issue, and others, within the next two weeks. Judge Wake assured the parties that he will issue a ruling on challenges to the employer sanctions law by February 1, 2008.

E-Verify is a free program that allows employers to electronically check the names and identification numbers of new hires to verify that they are authorized to work in the United States. The E-Verify program is jointly administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Employers may enroll in the E-Verify program on-line at https://www.vis-dhs.com/employerregistration. At the time of registration, employers must accept an electronic Memorandum of Understanding which requires the employer to make several promises to both the DHS and the SSA.