For this week’s Guest Post Friday here at Musings, we welcome back a good friend and fellow construction attorney, Scott Wolfe Jr. Scott is a construction attorney who practices law through his firm Wolfe Law Group in California, Washington, Oregon and Louisiana. He is also the founder of Zlien, a nationwide preliminary notice and mechanic’s lien filing service. He is the author of blogs Construction Law Monitor and the Construction Lien Blog.
The Landscape of New Immigration Laws in the United States
Now that that Arizona law has been deemed Constitutional by the United States Supreme Court, its effects are spreading like wildfire.
The “Legal Arizona Workers Act” allows law enforcement officers to detain anyone who is stopped for a lawful reason if the officer suspects the person to be an illegal immigrant. The law further allows Arizona to shut down businesses that hire illegal workers.
The Arizona law is significant not only for its novelty but also because it has now spawned the birth of similar immigration bills that are arguably even stricter.
On September 1, 2011, a new Alabama immigration law tougher than Arizona’s measure will take effect. An article on pbs.org offers a great explanation, stating: “It goes even further than the Arizona law by introducing new rules for…businesses…[and] makes it a crime to hire illegal immigrants “
Other states like Georgia and Louisiana, are starting to pass similar immigration laws that can have a negative effect on small to mid-size construction companies. In April, Louisiana introduced a bill similar to that of Arizona’s, being less strict that Alabama’s, and in May, Georgia did the same. Similar legislation is pending in Utah, Colorado, and Florida.
A lot of the controversy with these immigration laws is that they require the use of “E-Verify” to electronically verify if a particular worker’s social security number matches their name. We’re all used to the old I-9 form, and the E-Verify system is essentially the I-9 made electronic.
The new laws in Arizona and Alabama, and those pending in other states, will require E-Verify on every construction project, private or public. Aside from in these states, however, E-Verify is already sometimes required. Here is a breakdown of when E-Verify is required:
On All Projects (State, Federal & Private):
On State Projects:
And remember, E-Verify is required on federally funded projects all across the country.
How Immigration Laws Affect The Construction Industry
It’s no secret that illegal immigrants frequently find work in the construction industry.
This is mentioned by an economics professor at Samford University, Jeremy Thornton, when speaking about the new Alabama immigration law, noting that while it is presented as a job creation bill for Americans, it will not likely have that effect. Thornton notes that, “immigrants tend to take low-paid manual labor or hard-working construction jobs that many Americans no longer desire…[this law] will add a significant cost to the recruitment of workers in construction…”
So when these new laws are used to punish businesses for the use of illegal workers, it will very likely be used to punish construction businesses.
This is why Bill Caton, a spokesperson for the Associated General Contractors’ Alabama chapter calls the new law “punitive and repressive,” noting that immigration is a federal issue and should only be handled at that level. Caton goes on to state that, “construction companies should not be put in the position of enforcing immigration law.”
As these new laws are introduced state by state, it is important for contractors to stay updated, especially on the E-Verify system and its requirements. The harsh truth is that if you make a mistake, it could cost your construction business.