HELENA – The Senate backed a tax crackdown on businesses who hire illegal immigrants, saying such companies currently get an unfair advantage.
Senate Bill 377, which would prohibit companies from taking expense deductions for such workers, was endorsed 32-17 in an initial vote Thursday.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Gary Perry of Manhattan, said the bill might not stop companies from breaking the law — but it makes sure they will pay more if caught.
Supporters said the state should do what it can to stop companies from hiring illegal immigrants.
“When one group can have an advantage being illegal over a legal business, it’s wrong,” said Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish.
Opponents said the measure is just another attempt for the state to take over on an issue that the federal government should be tackling. They argued the state is ill-equipped to police illegal immigrants.
“This is another one of the bills that asks the state to step in where the federal government ought to be,” said Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena.
Others said it would place onerous obligations on businesses who may unknowingly hire illegal immigrants, and state agents not qualified to check for such workers.
If the measure gets final approval Friday, it will go to a House already looking at two other immigrations bills earlier approved by the Senate.
One would allow local governments to request immigration enforcement training for local police officers. The other prohibits local authorities from passing laws in opposition to federal immigration policy, or preventing employees from cooperating with federal enforcement.
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