VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 20   |   MAY 18 – 24, 2011


DOR relicenses illegal aliens after confirming their illegal status

Same unauthorized individuals whose licenses were revoked three years ago are up for revocation again

horse racingThe Arizona Department of Racing continues to issue licenses to illegal aliens and H2-B Visa holders for three years at a time, despite H2-B Visas, if the licensee possessed one at all, only being valid for temporary employment of less than a year.
Courtesy photo/

PHOENIX – State statute (A.R.S. § 5-107.01) requires all individuals participating in horse or greyhound racing in Arizona to obtain a license from the Arizona Department of Racing (DOR). DOR issues licenses for a three-year cycle.

However, it’s beginning to look as though the entire licensing process is a sham, allowing employers to hire and rehire the same illegal aliens time and time again.

It also appears the majority of illegal aliens are hired as grooms.

According to the “Licensing Process Description” posted on DOR’s website, “All license applicants are subject to a background investigation, including fingerprint processing through the Arizona Department of Public Safety, FBI, review of records of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, court, law enforcement agencies and any other method deemed necessary by the department.”

Apparently U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not been included in the background investigation process, nor deemed necessary by DOR.

On DOR’s website, under the license category “Groom,” it specifically states: “An individual that cannot provide proof of identity and a legal right to work in the United States shall be denied a license.”

However, that’s not how the DOR has been operating.

In 2007, a large number of grooms had their licenses revoked by the department, with the director’s decisions upheld on appeal in 2008 at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

The language in the 15 decisions we reviewed were virtually identical and under the OAH judge’s “Findings of Fact” it stated the licensees were licensed by DOR as grooms.

In describing the process, it stated Lillian “Joyce” Cozby, the management review administrator for the department, the division that oversees licensing, testified the renewal process for licenses in horse racing is done every three years in June and for the renewal of licenses due to be renewed in June 2007, the department “decided to allow licensees to begin the renewal process in April 2007 to avoid a ‘crunch’ in June 2007.”

It then stated the June 2007 renewal process was the first time Cozby was involved in the renewal process.

It was during that process, Cozby discovered, for licensees that were not citizens of the United States, the documentation provided for license renewal was not current with respect to documentation showing they were permitted to work in the United States on a visa or some other documentation that had an expiration date.

Additionally, Cozby testified for those licensees claiming authority to be in the United States without an expiration date, the department had no such supporting documentation.

The documents submitted to DOR by the licensees indicated they were neither U.S. citizens nor did they have authorization to work in the United States.

The department issued a “Notice of Hearing” to each of the licensees to inform them of the proceeding and the department was seeking to impose a civil penalty, suspend or revoke their licenses for failing to submit an unexpired visa or other documentation showing employment eligibility in accordance with federal law.

Cozby stated the licensees failed to submit any documented evidence of authorization to work in the United States.

The licensees argued the DOR failed to follow its own rules and did not make it clear what documentation it required for them to establish they were eligible to be employed in the United States.

DOR basically asserted the documentation and information submitted by the licensees did not show they were qualified to work in this country and stated the evidence it relied on was the only evidence it had, namely the information submitted by the licensees in their applications.

The administrative law judge concluded the licensees’ eligibility to work in the United States had either expired and/or documentation submitted did not reflect the licensees were authorized to work in the United States and ordered their licenses revoked.

That was in 2008.

At least 15 of the same licensees, whose licenses were revoked in 2008, currently have hearings scheduled because they are, once again, illegally present and/or working without authorization.

When Sonoran News contacted Cozby, assistant director of policy and administration, last month to find out how it was possible for these same individuals who were determined to be working illegally in 2007 and had their licenses revoked in 2008, be scheduled for revocation hearings again for the exact same reason, she said someone would have to call back.

Assistant Director of Investigations and Operations Nolan Thompson returned the call to say the licensees simply went back to their countries of origin, obtained H2-B visas and returned.

According to USCIS, H2-B visas for temporary foreign workers are issued for a single employer for a single location.

So, let’s say a groom is hired to work at Turf Paradise on an H2-B Visa, which is approximately a six to seven month meet. The visa would only be valid to work at Turf Paradise for that one employer during that specific time period and then the employee must return to his country of origin.

In other words, the employee would not be authorized to continue working for the same employer later at Yavapai Downs, for example, which meets for about five months after Turf Paradise concludes.

And, according to USCIS, if a person were to violate the conditions of his or her visa, it would render him ineligible for a new visa.

However, that’s only if USCIS knew there was a violation. And from my conversations with both USCIS and the DOR, they don’t communicate with one another.

Another problem is the DOR continues to issue licenses for three years to individuals who are only able to obtain H2-B Visas for temporary employment lasting anywhere from five to seven months.

And, while there were 13 licensees on the April 21, 2011 hearing docket for H2-B Visa violations, it appears Director Lonny Powell continued those cases, apparently to allow the illegal workers to remain until the Turf Paradise meet ended on May 4.

When asked if any of these individuals were actually issued visas and for what period of time, USCIS Public Affairs Officer Mariana Gitomer responded, “We cannot comment on individual cases due to privacy concerns.”

An e-mail sent to Gitomer on May 9 asked questions that were more general in nature, such as: Can employees obtain H2-B Visas for three years, despite their term of employment being no more than seven months in any given year? Would USCIS issue H2-B Visas to individuals who have been repeatedly documented by the state as being in the country without authorization? Is there any communication between state agencies and USCIS with respect to H2-B Visas, license revocation, unauthorized persons, etc?

Gitomer responded a week later by stating, “The only other information I was able to get regarding the H2-B Visa process is this one from our website (link included). As I explained before, we cannot comment on individual cases and it sounds the (sic) issues you are interested in have to be addressed by the employers and/or DOR.”

A public records request sent to DOR Administrative Hearings Coordinator Kim McCollum on April 25 was promptly acknowledged the same day.

McCollum stated our records reproduction request for applications and associated documents for 14 licensees had been forwarded to the director for approval and once it was approved it would be assigned to staff for processing.

A subsequent e-mail sent to McCollum on May 10, seeking an update as to when we could expect the records request to be completed, has gone unanswered.

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