Seminars to focus on laws regarding immigrant workers |

Seminars to focus on laws regarding immigrant workers

Tim Mutrie

High-ranking officials from federal agencies that deal with employment law and workers’ rights for immigrants will be in Aspen Thursday to present two seminars at The Gant.

“The seminars’ central focus is, what the law is and what is expected of people, both employers and workers,” said John Trasvina, Special Counsel for Immigration-related Unfair Employment Practices.

The Office of Special Council (OSC), formed in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that addresses immigration issues.

“We make an effort to educate both workers and employers about immigration laws,” Trasvina said yesterday. “When you have areas where immigrants are relatively new, such as the Aspen area, you have these kinds of issues.

“Part of what we do is try to resolve those issues by trying to get the various entities involved to work together. We know we can’t engineer things from Washington, D.C., so we work with a lot of the local groups.”

Taking part in the two seminars will be: Juliet Stumpf, a trial attorney for OSC who will make two presentations, “Immigration-related Unfair Employment Practices” and “Recent Immigration-related Issues Facing Employers in the Aspen Area;” Paco Flores, District Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who will discuss “National Origin Discrimination – Sexual Harassment Laws;” and Dean Campbell, District Director of the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, who will discuss “Protections Against Unfair Wage Practices.”

Other speakers include Robert Gnidziejko, District Director of the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance, who will discuss “Protections Against Discrimination in Federal Contracting;” and Trasvina, who will discuss “Workers’ Rights.”

The seminars are co-hosted by Roaring Fork Legal Services and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

The first seminar, specifically for employers, will run from 1 to 5 p.m., followed by a seminar from 6:30 to 9 p.m. specifically for workers. Both seminars will be held at The Gant’s conference center, and bilingual assistance will be available.

Following the presentations, officials will answer questions.

Trasvina said similar seminars are offered in cities throughout the country, typically in areas with large or growing immigrant populations.

The Aspen area was selected as a seminar site after recent media attention over the proposed opening of an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office in Carbondale, said Trasvina. A building permit for the office was eventually denied.

“Historically, we’ve mainly focused on New York, Illinois, California, Texas and Florida – areas with heavy concentrations of immigrants,” he said. “But recently, it’s become increasingly obvious to us that the areas that need this kind of information aren’t the traditional centers anymore, they’re places like your area.

“And in a lot of these new immigration centers there isn’t the infrastructure or support for immigrants like there would be in a Chicago or Los Angeles. So we can be more of a support in lesser-known places.”

Trasvina stressed that the seminars are not an omen for increased enforcement of immigration law locally, and that the OSC and INS are distinctly different agencies.

“INS has a different role,” he said. “We do enforce the laws, but in civil rights contexts, such as anti-discrimination.

“And coming out to Aspen gives the employers an opportunity to address the laws and issues facing them. Most of the employers get it right, some don’t. We’re trying to reach out to everybody.”

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