Immigration reform has certainly become a prominent political issue of late.  Its recent thrust into the forefront of political debate is not because Congress or the Obama administration has chosen to put it there, but rather because Arizona felt the need to take action, citing the federal government’s lack of enforcement.  Numerous lawsuits have been filed challenging Arizona’s new immigration law, and immigration issues took center stage at the National Governors Association meeting over the weekend.  

So what does this mean for employers who are caught in the middle of a heated political debate?  Arizona’s law has forced both Republicans and Democrats to focus on immigration issues whether they want to or not.  The debate over immigration reform is being driven largely by public reaction to enforcement measures implemented by states such as Arizona and by the Obama administration through ICE.    

Employers should tread carefully as parties on both sides of the political debate will continue to use enforcement measures, including raids, civil fines, debarment and criminal prosecution to push reform.  Employers, merely pawns in the larger game of chess being played, need to do everything they can to remain off the radar screen and avoid being used as an example in the ongoing political debate.  If they haven’t done so already, employers need to focus on their immigration compliance measures and ensure that their workforce, especially those in their human resources department, are complying with all company policies regarding the employment of unauthorized workers.  As more states weigh in with enforcement measures of their own, employers also need to be cognizant of the various state laws applicable to their workforce.