Petition Drive Begins To Put Ordinance On Ballot

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Payson voters may have the last word on whether a local business license ordinance, tied to illegal immigration, actually becomes law.

Jim Hill, owner of The Door Stop, picked up a packet from Payson Town Hall as a first step in a process that could end with a referendum on the ballot.

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Jim Hill

Hill must collect signatures from 10 percent of the number of voters who participated in the last town election in order for his referendum to reach the ballot, said Town Clerk Silvia Smith.

To accomplish this, Hill and his supporters need to collect 548 signatures by May 7, which is 30 days after the Payson Town Council passed the amended business license ordinance.

If the petition for a referendum is successful, there would be an election in March 2008 on the issue.

Hill said he is concerned that the town is asking him to sign an affidavit, swearing that the people he hires are legally allowed to work. It is almost impossible for him to determine whether a document is false or not, he said.

"We are just as concerned about illegal immigration as anyone else, but we cannot (verify) counterfeit documents," Hill said.

As an example, Hill said, a Nebraska birth certificate, which is a legal document allowed to prove citizenship, is something he has never seen, and therefore he would not know if it was fraudulent.

Hill also said he realized, after speaking to members of the council, that they had never seen an I-9 document, a document verifying a person is legally able to work in the United States.

"I have a problem with that," he said.

Hill is challenging this law reluctantly, as there will be some who think he is hiring undocumented workers, he said. "I was hoping someone would put the bull's eye on their back (instead of me)."

He said The Door Stop asks for complete documentation for all of its employees, but two of his employees of Hispanic descent recently quit and moved away from the town after the passage of the new ordinance.

Mayor Bob Edwards said the intention of the new ordinance is to ensure documents are filed by employers and added, businesses will not be punished if they unknowingly receive false documents.

"We are not trying to make them INS agents," Edwards said.

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