TV report puts area contractor in spotlight
Aspen, CO ColoradoGLENWOOD SPRINGS A television report on the national debate over illegal immigration is having repercussions in the Roaring Fork Valley. Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw’s documentary team focused on Glenwood Springs contractor Mark Gould and his struggle to fill laborer jobs he says only Latinos will take.Gould spoke about his frustration at not being able to hire Americans for the labor to lay sewer pipe and sidewalks. He said high school graduates now don’t want to start out as ditch-diggers for $14 an hour – the current starting wage at Gould Construction.Without immigrant workers willing to take those jobs – illegal or not – his business would be in deep trouble, he said.Gould also admitted that at the time of an interview for the story last spring, he could have had illegal immigrants on his payroll despite checking documents of prospective Latino workers.Brett Gould’s phone at the Gould Construction office south of Glenwood Springs was ringing off the hook Wednesday. Brett Gould, director and human resource at Gould Construction, said he’d received more than 600 calls from across the country inquiring about jobs.But there was also a downside for the Goulds.”By the end of the show I had e-mails, applications for jobs,” Mark Gould said from the Dallas airport Wednesday afternoon. He was returning from a family vacation over the Christmas holiday. “The hate mail bothered me the most. People want to put their head in the sand about this issue.”He said most businesses don’t want to acknowledge they may be breaking the law because they need to hire illegal immigrants to fill their jobs.Retired concrete contractor Ken Kriz of Glenwood Springs found the show revealing and unsettling. One of the themes of the story was the apparent failure of many Latino immigrants, whose numbers are growing exponentially here, to integrate into the valley’s Anglo community.”It’s disturbing that Hispanics are really taking over and many don’t seem to want to assimilate,” he said. “Immigrants that came here 50 or 100 years ago, they assimilated.”Kriz’s parents, who immigrated from Czechoslovakia, told him, “You were born in America. You’re going to learn English. There’s some [Hispanics] that do want to learn English, that do want to be part of the culture here, but a lot of them don’t.”He [Gould] probably doesn’t really care whether they’re legal or not.”On his way back from a vacation Tuesday night, Mark Gould managed to catch the TV show. He said his message “didn’t necessarily come across because it was broken into sound bites.”NBC producer Soraya Gage said in an interview last week that she and Brokaw appreciated Gould’s willingness to speak out about a problem that many employers won’t acknowledge for fear of bringing the law down on their heads.The show filmed Brett Gould taking applications from several Latino men and checking their immigration documents. He said the company does everything it can to stay within the law when it comes to hiring.”We try to not knowingly hire illegal workers,” he said on the show. The film crew also interviewed a Latino worker Gould hired named Trino. He admitted that he was in this country illegally and used a false Social Security number to get the job. Brett Gould terminated Trino and his brother Juan Carlos on Wednesday.”We had to,” he said. “I did not know he was illegal until last night [when the show aired]. They’re darn good workers. They learned fast. They learned English.”On Aug. 7 Colorado passed a new law requiring Homeland Security to screen prospective employees’ documents.”Everyone we’ve hired since then is legal,” he said. But he said he’s lost 10 percent of his work force. “The state Legislature reacted to many people’s opinion. They don’t understand the real problem.”Mark Gould wasn’t comfortable watching the TV show, but he acknowledged that it’s an issue that warrants more discussion.”It was hard to watch last night. I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There’s something wrong with the world, and we need to fix it. We can’t fix it unless we talk about it.”
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