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New Bill Proposes Punishments For Contractors That Hire Undocumented Workers

With more than 10 percent of Nevada’s workforce consisting of undocumented workers, businesses have benefited from hiring people living in this country illegally.

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Unauthorized workers are employed on construction sites, and by ranchers needing help with their crops, for example.

Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen says enough is enough. The politician from Sparks believes contractors should be penalized, if they knowingly hire people living in this country illegally.

He presented AB133 on Monday in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee. The bill proposes that the Nevada State Contractors Board impose additional sanctions on the company’s business license.

But officials from the contractors' board say they're not allowed to go after immigration violators. They proposed an amendment allowing the board to sanction a business only if the U.S. attorney general found wrongdoing.

Hansen acknowledged the amended bill would be mostly symbolic, but said it was a pat on the back for law-abiding companies.

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Federal law already bans businesses from knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Hansen says it’s not enough, but his hands are tied on what state officials can do about it.

Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, a Democrat from Reno, says federal law is sufficient. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that "adding a layer of bureaucracy at the state level really isn't helpful."

Benitez-Thompson said the real problem is that on the federal level the path to citizenship is so difficult that many people just stop trying. She believes the real solution is in the hands of Congress and comprehensive immigration reform.

“If not, then the only recourse state legislatures have, like Nevada, are very onerous, heavy-handed legislation like the one Assemblyman Hansen is proposing,” Benitez-Thompson said.

The assemblywoman also believes the measure is the latest attack on the middle class by many Republicans in Carson City.

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Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thomas, D-Reno
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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)