In its first year, the landmark Arizona law prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants has produced no civil cases against businesses.

One difficulty cited in bringing business-license suspension and revocation cases against employers is prosecutors’ lack of civil subpoena powers to make suspected violators hand over records and give testimony.

Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, who led the effort to create the law, said the only way prosecutors can now get hiring records in employer sanctions investigations is by pursuing criminal cases against workers who use fake IDs or stolen identities to land a job. “We know people are still playing games,” Pearce said.

In the coming year, Pearce plans to ask the Legislature to revise the law so that prosecutors can have civil subpoena authority, a prospect that critics of the law said would be an unnecessary expansion of prosecutors’ powers.

The push for civil subpoena power is expected to continue the wrangling that has dogged the law since it was approved. Business and civil rights groups that argued the state couldn’t regulate such hirings have thus far failed in their attempts to get the courts to strike down the law.

Faced with criticism that the law was poorly written, the Legislature revised the law to impose criminal penalties for people who use fake identities to get jobs and clarify that the new law didn’t apply to people hired before 2008. And voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made business-friendly revisions to the law, such as requiring complaints of illegal hirings to be made in writing rather than permitting anonymous tips.

Although authorities across Arizona said they have examined several dozen employer sanctions complaints, no civil cases have been made against businesses for illegal hirings. But the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has accused employees of a handful of businesses of using forged documents or stolen identities to get jobs. The law has prompted or contributed to an unknown number of illegal immigrants leaving Arizona for their home countries or other U.S. states.

The biggest difficulty cited in bringing employer sanctions cases is the requirement that prosecutors prove that a business knew it had hired an illegal immigrant; it doesn’t suffice to show only that the illegal worker was employed at the business.

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix, who is an attorney and voted against the law, said the threshold for getting a civil subpoena is much lower than a criminal subpoena and that granting such new authority could lead to “fishing expeditions” in which prosecutors could search records without having to show any wrongdoing on the part of the employer.

“They have enough power to do their job,” Sinema said. “If they are not able to do it now, it’s their issue.”

Maricopa County’s top prosecutor, Andrew Thomas, who has made combating illegal immigration a top priority in his office, said the subpoena authority that he wants from the Legislature would be similar to the powers of state agencies that regulate business licenses.

“It really doesn’t make sense to have a license revocation law — which is what the employer sanctions law in Arizona really is — without giving us the subpoena authority,” Thomas said. He declined to say whether any businesses have refused to hand over records in civil employer sanctions inquiries.

Julie Pace, one of the lawyers representing business groups trying to overturn the law, said prosecutors can already ask judges to sign off on subpoenas.

In representing businesses that have been asked to provide documents in employer sanctions investigations, Pace said she provides authorities the documents they need and that they don’t normally come back to say they haven’t received what they needed.

Thomas said civil subpoena power will allow his office to help build cases against employers.

“One of the criticisms that has been made of the enforcement so far is that we have focused too heavily on employees and not on employers,” Thomas said. “That is not by choice.”

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