Immigration Ordinance Faces Final Reading

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On Thursday, the Payson Town Council will discuss and possibly vote on the second 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.

If approved, the ordinance could become law by the middle of April.

The ordinance comes before the council during a week where the nation is watching Hazleton, Pa., a town that is facing a lawsuit over its illegal immigration policy.

In a federal trial that started on Monday, the court will decide whether Hazleton has the right to make life difficult for landlords who rent to undocumented workers or if they can penalize the employers who hire undocumented workers.

According to an Associated Press article, the case in Pennsylvania is the first one to explore whether local governments may act on their own to curb illegal immigration.

Dozens of towns have considered ordinances or laws similar to Payson's to the one in Hazleton, Pa.

Hazleton's ordinance is different from the Payson ordinance in tone and substance. It opens with a section of "Findings and Declaration of Purpose" that blames illegal immigration with "higher crime rates, overcrowded classrooms and failing schools ... and destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life."

Hazleton's ordinance also includes a section declaring English as the official language of the city.

Town Manager Fred Carpenter mentioned two other cities that are battling the immigration issue in the courts --Escondido, Calif. and a town in Texas.

Mayor Bob Edwards said the Town of Payson is moving forward with the ordinance that has already been drafted. He added that he has received a lot of e-mails about the Pennsylvania case.

"We are doing our own thing," Edwards said. "If you are going to hire an illegal immigrant, you are not going to get a business license (in town)."

Calls to Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta were not returned. Barletta, according to the Associated Press article, championed the laws, saying illegal immigrants were committing violent crimes in town.

U.S. District Judge James Munley, according to the same article, barred enforcement of the law, pending conclusion of the trial, but the threat of action has resulted in many undocumented workers leaving Hazleton.

In other business Thursday night, the council will discuss the Chilson Ranch Subdivision. Carpenter said he thinks all of the issues have been resolved on this proposal.

In a second reading, the council will also discuss impact fees at Thursday's meeting.

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at Payson Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway.

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