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The Weekly Round-Up: Contractors Need Immigrants to Fill Workforce and Massive Enforcement Raids are Conducted near Cleveland

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Contractors throughout the country press for immigration reform following a reduction in the workforce.

This week, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA), a trade association for American contractors, urged the government to pass comprehensive immigration reform that meets the needs of U.S. employers.  AGCA’s economist, Kenneth D. Simonson, said he “recognize[s] it’s important to have safe borders,” but “it’s also really important for the growth of the U.S. economy to make sure that we have a large enough workforce.”

For example, the AGCA pointed to a survey in Texas that revealed 78% of construction companies cannot find sufficient qualified workers.  But this was not unique to Texas – the national average of construction companies that reported shortages was 80%.  In Colorado, 80% of the companies surveyed were having difficulty filling all of their positions.  Likewise, 80% of companies in California reported shortages, as did 81% in Louisiana.  Mr. Simonson noted that it “was striking how universal the difficulty was filling craft positions,” and that “labor shortages are not going away any time soon.”

Although immigration was not explicitly asked about on company surveys, the Denver Post reported that many contractors raised the issue of immigration reform during a conference call with reporters, and expressed a desire to make it easier for necessary workers to obtain visas.

The U.S. files federal criminal charges against 13 immigrants following raids at Northeast Ohio meat packing company.

This week, 13 undocumented immigrants were indicted in federal court for using fraudulent government ID cards and other documentation in order to obtain employment.  They were part of a group of 146 immigrants arrested during a massive enforcement raid in the towns of Salem and Massillon, near Cleveland; many of the immigrants were detained and are now in deportation proceedings.

The employees noted Ohio’s Morning Journal all worked for Fresh Mark, a large meat packing company in Northeast Ohio that supplies restaurants and grocery stores with hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausage, and other deli meats.  The 13 workers charged with federal crimes are accused of using fake state identification cards, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards, and of making false statements of lawful immigrant status to gain employment with the company.  Eleven of those indicted were citizens of Guatemala, and two were citizens of Mexico.

In 2012, Fresh Mark was the first company in Ohio to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an effort to ensure workplace compliance with immigration laws and regulations.  The company agreed, among other things, to establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy and submit to an inspection of company documentation related to the immigration statuses of employees.  In exchange, the government agreed to waive or reduce some fines related to employer immigration violations.

If you are an employer or employee and wish to know your rights and obligations under current immigration laws and regulations, please contact an experienced immigration attorney.

If you have questions about topics covered in today’s weekly round-up or other immigration matters, contact me at wcmenard@nmmlaw.com.