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Employers' vigilance
New immigration law affects firms not likely to hire illegals

By Joanne Kelley, Rocky Mountain News
October 7, 2006

Employers seeking economic development incentives from the state must now verify they have no undocumented workers on staff, under a new law that took effect this week.While the measure is one of many aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, it effectively targets a tier of companies that attracts few ineligible workers, according to area economic development officials.
"Companies we typically deal with are paying well above the minimum wage," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. "Those are typically not jobs where illegal workers find themselves."
Colorado provides money to companies that create new jobs or train existing workers for higher-paying technical positions. Officials say many of those jobs tend to be offered by companies that already conduct rigorous pre-employment screening.
"The industry that received the most support from us in the past year has been aerospace," said Brian Vogt, who heads Colorado's economic development office. "Those companies are extremely careful in their hiring process because they're dealing with federal contracts."
Still, employers will need to sign an affidavit and subject themselves to the possibility of an audit if they apply for any of the job training money, loans or grants administered by the state's economic development office.
"Spot audits typically will get someone's attention in a big hurry," Vogt said.
The new law, House Bill 1001, took effect Oct. 1.
Dick Hinson of the Aurora Economic Development Council said it's too early to say how much impact the new law will have. He also noted the state's economic development commission requires that companies pay far more than average county wages to qualify for incentive money.
Officials say this particular immigration-related measure is unlikely to be much of a burden on firms.
"It will be a little extra step," said Trish Layton, vice president of the Southeast Business Partnership, which handles economic development for the south metro Denver area. "The state is cautious on who they give grants to - anyone should have to comply with the law."
What the new law requires
• As of Oct. 1, a new law requires employers to verify they have no illegal immigrants working for them if they want to receive state economic development aid.
• Companies must sign an affidavit. To encourage compliance, they could be subject to a spot-check of records.
• The measure affects grants, loans and other financial incentives awarded by the Colorado Economic Development Commission.
Of the 17 immigration-related laws passed by the Colorado legislature and signed by the governor, two others have a direct impact on employers:
• House Bill 1343, which took effect in August, requires employers who receive state contracts to use a federal online database called the Basic Pilot Program to determine whether applicants are legally in the country.
• HB 1017, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires employers to keep copies of documentation showing whether new hires are in the country legally and that the employer has not altered employee documents. or 303-954-5068