Attention Prince William County small-business owners—in case you missed it, it’s time to dig out your birth certificates or dust off your passports. The County has recently ordered small-business owners to bring their documentation and appear in person to prove that they are living in the country legally. As reported in the Washington Post on February 10, approximately 4,000 small-business owners in the County recently received notices about the new requirement telling them they have until March 1 to provide proof that they are legal residents. Compliance is required in order to get their business licenses renewed.
Prince William’s mandate to small business owners has been met with a chorus of conflicting responses. Those protesting the requirement fear that the measure has put the County at a competitive disadvantage in a tough economy because people in other counties can continue to apply for their certification online or by mail. Whether this new legal status verification measure has more than a symbolic effect remains to be seen.
Along with a few other counties, Prince William is a pioneer in focusing its immigration enforcement efforts on business owners at the county level. In doing so, the County is actually in sync with the current strategies of the federal government. Specifically, in March 2008, a raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at CMC Concrete in Manassas resulted in the arrest of 34 illegal workers.
Whether or not you agree with ICE’s enforcement policy and the County’s anti-illegal immigrant laws, you do not want to end up the victim of an ICE raid or lose your business license. So the bottom line for Prince William County businesses is that you must stay compliant and abreast of federal, state and county laws. Ensuring the legal immigration status of workers and business owners has become too much of a hot button issue both nationally and locally to be ignored.
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