Contractors Hire Illegal Workers
Contractors Hire Illegal Workers
Many entities consider illegal immigration to be a regional issue, or one relating to border security, but as dependence on contractors and subcontractors increases, all levels of government face risks and challenges.
Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), arrested 66 illegal workers who were building a federal court facility in Orlando, FL. The ICE investigation revealed that the workers submitted fraudulent Social Security numbers and other counterfeit documents to obtain employment by various subcontractors.
The State of Florida is home to many illegal immigrants, but what about Massachusetts? Federal agents arrested 14 illegal immigrant janitors at Boston’s Logan International Airport. The janitors were hired and issued airport security badges by a subcontractor.
California is also home to a large illegal immigrant population. ICE agents arrested 17 undocumented workers at a U.S. Navy base on North Island in San Diego, CA.
Recent job site raids have uncovered illegal workers in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and New York–proving this is a national problem.
An employer who knowingly hires unauthorized workers may be criminally prosecuted or face administrative fines of up to $11,000 per person. ICE did not levy fines or bring charges against Logan Airport or the Navy, but rather, the contractors.
The contractors are ultimately responsible for complying with all hiring regulations. Right? Just as, per your contracts, they are bound to apply all relevant laws.
NIGP’s May 2006 Pulse Poll on Illegal Immigration revealed that 74 percent of respondent agencies have no policy relating to the use of illegal immigrant labor to fulfill government contract commitments.
Currently, 26 percent of Pulse Poll respondents indicate that their agencies have stated policies or requirements regarding suppliers’ use of illegal immigrant labor. When asked if suppliers must provide a statement or affidavit of compliance, only 18 percent require such a statement. Of those 18 percent, 30 percent (or 5.4 percent of the total respondent population) indicated that they verify compliance.
These statistics could leave government entities vulnerable, given that ICE has expanded its focus on traditional work site enforcement. Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of DHS and head of ICE, laid down her challenge to the employer community.
According to Myers, many employers consider administrative fines as a “standard” business expense. To combat this belief, ICE plans to increase criminal investigations against employers hiring illegal immigrants.
It is unlikely that governments will receive fines or face charges, but there will be negative repercussions if ICE agents discover unauthorized workers building the new city hall, cleaning the county offices, landscaping a state park, or as witnessed in Florida, building a federal court house.
Highly publicized arrests at government locations, delays at construction sites, and lapses in contracted services are just a few of the possibilities.
Now is the time to create procurement policies and adhere to procedures that verify contractor compliance. By educating contractors about their responsibilities regarding illegal workers, entities have the opportunity to reduce associated risks. It is also the responsibility of all government entities to promote the enforcement of federal labor laws.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) operates the Basic Pilot Program, a Web-based application that employers can use to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired workers. How many of your contractors take advantage of this voluntary employee verification program?
Might this and other valuable resources be added to contract specifications or vendor evaluation criteria? In today’s climate of reform, ICE is no longer turning a blind eye to the employment of illegal immigrants. Proactive steps in the procurement process may afford greater confidence in contract awards.