Tenn. AG: Immigrant proposal is unconstitutional

By Chris Rizo | Apr 11, 2008

Robert Cooper, Jr.

NASHVILLE-A proposal in the General Assembly to make it a crime for illegal immigrants to accept pay for work done in Tennessee is unconstitutional, said state Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr.

In an opinion this week, Cooper said the proposal sponsored by Nashville Democrats Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, and Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory would violate the Federal Labor Standards Act.

He wrote that provisions of the Federal Labor Standards Act have been ruled by the federal courts to "apply regardless of immigration status and that all workers are entitled to be paid for work that they have performed."

The controversial proposal has been awaiting floor votes in both chambers of the General Assembly pending Cooper's opinion.

The proposal would force undocumented immigrants caught working in Tennessee to forfeit their earnings and property. Cooper said the provision could violate workers' due process rights.

"It is conceivable that government officials might attempt to seize all real or personal property of an undocumented alien, including property that is not in any way related to that person's compensation for illegally working in the state," Cooper wrote.

Violators would also face up to six months in jail and be fined up to $500, under the proposal.

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