Florida City's Illegal Immigrant Crackdown May Stop Wal-Mart

City leaders are considering revising a proposed ban on assistance to illegal immigrants after learning its broad scope might block the construction of a Wal-Mart.

The ordinance would prohibit companies from getting business permits if they hired or helped illegal immigrants within the past five years. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. paid a record $11 million fine last year in a settlement with the Homeland Security Department over hiring illegal immigrants.

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City Attorney Michael Disler said the ordinance is "poorly drafted," unconstitutional and could prevent the world's largest retailer from coming to Avon Park, a city of 9,000 in central Florida. He said he did not participate in drafting it.

Mayor Tom Macklin, who has championed the measure, said the city's "Illegal Immigration Relief Act" was modeled on a similar law from Hazleton, Pa. Hazelton's law, which gained national attention, was set for a final vote Thursday.

Macklin said he would consider removing the language that would make Avon Park's ordinance retroactive.

"I don't believe the intent of this council is to penalize people for actions prior to the adoption of this ordinance," Macklin said. "I think existing businesses and new businesses need to know from this point forward that if they hire an illegal alien, there will be consequences."

Wal-Mart spokesman Eric Brewer said the ordinance would not interfere with the company's plans to build in Avon Park.

"It's broad language," Brewer said. "I supposed it depends on how you define it."

The city, which gave the ordinance preliminary approval in June, is set to vote a final time on July 24.