Workforce: Immigrants Play Key Role In Utility Construction

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | March 2009 Vol. 64 No. 3

“In the past two to three years, nearly every state has passed laws relating to immigration. One of the most common state law provisions prohibits contractors with the state from hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized aliens for work on state contracts. Some states require companies they contract with to enroll in E Verify. The State of Arizona passed a law that would result in the forfeiture of a company's license to do business in that state upon a second violation of the prohibition on hiring unauthorized workers.

“Business groups in some states have fought state immigration statutes, arguing that federal law pre-empts state law in the immigration area. But thus far, these laws have not in general been overturned. Colorado, for example, actually goes beyond federal law requiring I 9 compliance, and asserts that Colorado employers must complete an additional state attestation concerning its compliance with the federal Immigration & Nationality Act. One result of the passage of the Colorado law was that large numbers of migrant farm and other workers left the state, to seek employment elsewhere. Oklahoma's state law gives U.S. workers the right to sue an employer if it lays off a U.S. worker and at the same time is found to have one unauthorized worker on the payroll. A good source on state immigration laws is the National Conference of State Legislatures. This provides an update for the first half of 2008, and there are archived reports on state immigration laws passed in prior years. The same site may provide information on state enforcement of their immigration laws.

Editor’s Note: Elise Healy has nearly 20 years of experience in immigration law. In addition to representing clients on immigration labor issues, she serves as a consultant and lectures frequently on immigration labor topics.

Read more about the role of illegal aliens in the construction business in a sidebar to this article, Trends Of The Illegal Alien Workforce.