Palm Bay—Immigration activists crowded City Hall tonight as the Palm Bay City Commission voted on an ordinance targeting employers that hire undocumented workers with steep fines, even though federal law already prohibits the hiring of undocumented immigrants.
“This ordinance accomplishes nothing except to foment anti-immigrant hysteria and place an undue burden on local small businesses,” said Jorge Mursuli, Senior Vice President of People For the American Way.
The ordinance prohibits any business entity (including contractors, self employed individuals, and partnerships) from employing immigrant workers who do not have proper documentation, and allows the City to fine employers who do so by up to $350. If a business is found to have more than three violations they may be prohibited from performing any work in Palm Bay. To date, four different law firms have committed to challenging this measure in the courts, which could take years and cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Business leaders in Palm Bay have said that the ordinance will hurt, not help, the small businesses it seeks to protect. Meanwhile, documented immigrants who have permission to work fear employers may discriminate against all immigrants rather than deal with the additional bureaucratic layers created by the ordinance.
At tonight’s meeting, immigrant residents of Palm Bay voiced fear and anger about racial profiling. Some activists questioned how such an ordinance could be enforced given the complex nature of determining an individual’s status.
“Sensible, fair and comprehensive reform is much-needed at the federal level, but these local enforcement efforts fly in the face of federal law and divide communities through the scapegoating of immigrants,” Mursuli said. “This ordinance does nothing to solve the problem of immigration reform.”