Business Owners Divided On Council's Proposed Immigration Ordinance

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At about 9 a.m. Monday, nearly 50 men were waiting in a parking lot along Highway 260 looking for work.

They did not have to wait long.

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Weekday mornings in Payson, men gather in grocery store parking lots in search of work. Business owners who hire anyone who is not documented could risk losing their business licenses if a proposed ordinance passes.

Fourteen pickup trucks from a tree removal company entered the parking lot, and after talking to them for a few minutes, the men were loaded into trucks and driven to a job site.

As the company spoke with the people who were waiting for work, three men -- none whom spoke English -- were landscaping at the edge of the parking lot.

Whether or not those workers are in the country illegally is a current concern of the Payson Town Council.

On Thursday, the council approved the first reading of a business license ordinance that would require license applicants to sign an affidavit promising to confirm the immigration status of all employees. Any business owner found to be hiring undocumented workers could be fined up to $20,000 and lose his or her business license.

Business owners have mixed feelings about the proposed ordinance that could become law by mid-April.

Buck Rogers of Chapman Auto Center said his business does not hire illegal immigrants.

He said the proposed ordinance is a good way to stop businesses from hiring undocumented workers.

"If they threaten to pull a business license, it would not be too hard to enforce," Rogers said.

Charles Buckpitt, owner of CJ Landscaping, agrees with the proposed ordinance.

"Unfortunately, our government has not picked up the ball on it, so someone has to," he said. "The starting point has to be somewhere."

Corky Barker, general manager of Best Western Payson Inn, said she is already following the law.

"I don't have any fears," she said. "All of my employees are documented."

A local restaurant owner, who asked not to be identified, said if the ordinance becomes law, Mexican nationals might stop coming to work, which would be devastating for local restaurants whose kitchen staff is often Hispanic.

The owner said the people who want to make this law are the same ones who want low prices for meals at local restaurants.

The workers who come to his restaurant have paperwork, but there is no way to know which employees are legal and which ones have false documents.

"I think the ordinance is a government thing," he said. "How are we supposed to know? Who is to question who is legal and who is not?"

He believes that his business does not have any undocumented workers -- at least to the best his knowledge.

Gloria Anaya, an owner of La Sierra Mexican Restaurant, is opposed to the ordinance.

Anaya said she did not like the proposed law, and mentioned it could only hurt business.

Tina Bruess, director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, said business owners wonder how the ordinance is going to be enforced and what will happen to businesses if they refuse to sign the affidavit stating they have not employed undocumented workers.

Mayor Bob Edwards said the law is intended to level the playing field for all employers and landlords -- not to solve the immigration issue.

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