Glenwood won’t increase immigration status checks
September 7, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Some construction contractors might still think there’s an unlevel playing when it comes to bidding on city contracts.
The Glenwood Springs City Council voted Thursday night not to pass a motion that would toughen employee immigration status checks on contractors who bid on city construction jobs.
Councilwoman Chris McGovern, who voted for the tougher measures, said the city has contracts for services and contracts for construction. The city requires the extra measures for contractors for services ” such as consultants ” but doesn’t require them for construction, she said.
“In other words, our contractors who are doing construction projects for the city of Glenwood Springs can hire illegal workers,” she said.
House Bill 1343, which the Legislature passed in August 2006, toughened immigration requirements for contractors who bid on contracts with any state agency or political subdivision. A provision of it requires Basic Pilot Program immigration status checks through the Department of Homeland Security. But there are differing interpretations on exactly what types of contracts it applies to.
City attorney Jan Shute said there is no clear interpretation of the law. She said Rifle is now asking its construction contractors to use the tougher check but that the majority of municipalities in the Colorado Municipal League still are not.
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“The Colorado Municipal League asked the Legislature to interpret its legislation, and they chose not to deal with it,” she said.
It’s illegal to hire undocumented workers, but the Basic Pilot Program presumably makes it more difficult for workers to use false personal information to get a job.
The issue came up most recently when Mark Gould, who owns Gould Construction, approached the Glenwood Springs City Council in July. He said then that he felt unfairly criticized for not bidding on city projects. He said Glenwood Springs is not requiring the Basic Pilot Program check and other taxing agencies are. Since he uses the Basic Pilot Program for all his new hires in compliance with the law, he said, it creates an unlevel playing field. He questioned why he would waste his time bidding on city projects against other contractors who don’t utilize the Basic Pilot Program.
Glenwood has had some trouble getting bids on construction projects. Gould suggested that the city not requiring the Basic Pilot Program for construction contracts was a factor.
“It’s not our job to require that they follow the law,” mayor Bruce Christensen said. “It’s the U.S. government’s job to require them to follow the law. … We are not saying we want employers breaking the law. But I do not think that it’s our responsibility to place more burdens on people.”
Councilman Dave Johnson said, “Are we not just reaffirming the federal policy that we all hoped was being followed?”
Council members Larry Beckwith, Chris McGovern and Dave Merritt voted for requiring the Basic Pilot Program for construction contractors, while Joe O’Donnell, Christensen and Johnson voted against. Council member Kris Chadwick was absent.