Loss of Immigrant Workers May Increase Building Costs

Serious road construction and home building season is around the corner in Colorado and contractors, like Mark Gould in Glenwood Springs, are concerned about having enough labor. Since the passage of HB 1343 last summer, employers have to verify the immigration status of all employees and sub-contractor’s employees. They risk penalties if undocumented workers are found on the job. Gould was featured on NBC News Immigration special last December that focused on Latino workers in the Roaring Fork Valley between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. He also testified before the legislature last summer against HB 1343. Now, Gould is warning government officials from Aspen to Grand Junction that government construction projects will be more costly because of the new state immigration laws.

From The Post Independent:

“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.

According to Gould, once undocumented workers are eliminated from hire, there are not enough local workers for a local contractor to complete government projects or build houses. Plus, the oil and gas industry is drawing many laborers from the construction business with $20 an hour starting pay.

Gould encouraged government officials to invite state legislators for a meeting to discuss the ramifications of HB 1343 because no one is telling legislators how much this bill is hurting the Western Slope economy. That prompted the Glenwood mayor to agree, “If we can’t get workers, we’re dead.”

HB 1343

HB 06-1343, effective August 7, 2006 (C.R.S. 8-17.5-101 et seq.): This statute affects contractors who provide services to state agencies and political subdivisions of the state, broadly defined to include most state and local governments, districts, and other public entities. Public contracts for services must include provisions which: (1) prohibit the contractor from knowingly employing or contracting with illegal aliens, or using subcontractors who do so; (2) require the contractor to participate in the federal “Basic Pilot Program” to verify that it does not employ illegal aliens; and (3) require the contractor to take specified actions if it learns that a subcontractor is employing illegal aliens. Violation of these provisions will constitute a breach of contract, allowing the public entity to terminate the contract and recover damages. The Secretary of State will maintain a list of all terminated contractors. The Department of Labor and Employment is authorized to investigate compliance, and its web site provides a complaint form for reporting violations.

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