Immigration law makes challenges for gov’t projects |

Immigration law makes challenges for gov’t projects

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A meeting of West Slope mayors heard some bad news from a local contractor Friday. Mark Gould, owner of Gould Construction, told the mayors, who meet periodically to wrestle with social and political issues, not to look to him to bid on many of their contracts. Gould said new state immigration laws will drive up his bids for government projects.Since House Bill 1343 took effect Aug. 7, Gould and other contractors doing business with government are now required to certify that they have no illegal workers on his payroll. The law applies to contractors working on projects for cities, counties, school districts and other governmental agencies.Many of Gould’s laborers are Hispanic immigrants. While he checks their documents, he knows he can’t guarantee they are all legal.”A counterfeit (document) by definition looks like a real one,” and it’s difficult to tell which is real and which is forged, he said.”West Slope contractors do 50 percent of their work for government,” Gould said. “Most of us who comply (with the law) don’t bid (on those contracts) because there is not a level playing field.”According to the law, new workers must be checked through a Pilot Program under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. The program links employers to an online database that checks names against Social Security numbers to determine if the number is valid.”We’re in trouble when we enforce the law,” he said. According to the law, he must fire employees hired since Aug. 7 whose documents don’t check out, and can’t hire new workers for the same reason.Gould also said he loses more and more workers to the oil and gas industry, which pays over $20 a hour compared to Gould’s starting wage for laborers of $14 an hour.Silt Mayor Dave Moore, who is a housing contractor, agreed. “We’re all hurting in the valley” for workers, he said.Grand junction Mayor James Doody said the problem is on an even greater scale in Grand Junction.”Last week an oil and gas company walked into a Wendy’s” and offered the employees better pay to work for them, and so many took them up on the offer “they shut them down,” he said.Gould said it’s important for local governments to tell the legislature the impact of the state immigration laws.”No one’s telling the legislature this is hurting our economy,” he said.Immigration needs to be legislated at the federal level, Gould said. “The Kennedy-McCain Bill was comprehensive legislation that would close the borders,” document existing undocumented workers, conduct medical and criminal background checks on them and establish a guest worker program.The mayors agreed Friday to invite state legislators to meet with them to discuss the problem.”We agree, if we can’t get workers we’re dead,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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