Last July, the Boston Globe found that the Massachusetts State Police employed janitorial crews staffed overwhelmingly with illegal immigrants. The company providing those workers was said to have state contracts worth more than $2 million. The Globe also found that landscapers working at the home of then-Governor Mitt Romney, now a GOP presidential hopeful, had immigration issues.
What does this tell us?
It shows how illegal immigrants perform part of America’s dirty work, and how many of us choose to more or less ignore this.
It’s logical then to conclude that not only “border states” are involved in profiteering on the backs of undocumented workers. Rhode Island mirrors the national conundrum. Employers demand cheap labor; illegals provide it. Weak laws go unenforced. The pool of potential deportees has reached unmanageable proportions, so the problem festers and grows. Yet there is something wrong when the law is flouted.
The prestigious Pew Foundation estimates Rhode Island had between 20,000 and 35,000 undocumented workers in 2004.
Lisa Hill, a buyer in the Division of Purchasing, says there are 50 active janitorial contracts for state facilities, worth a combined $5,858,000. Of those, 40 contracts (75 percent of the money spent on state janitorial services, not including the courts, which are negotiated separately) are split between TriState Enterprises of Providence and Falcon Maintenance of Johnston. Seven firms share the remaining 25 percent.
Cleaning crews for TriState and Falcon include mostly foreign workers willing to work for low wages. Though vendors collect documentation (Social Security numbers, photo ID, and the like) verification of workers’ green card status is not required under federal or state law.
The review of the state police in Massachusetts found that 163 of 192 submitted Social Security numbers were bogus, usually lifted from the deceased. So what, one wonders, would a check of Rhode Island’s Social Security lists turn up? (As a result of this inquiry, Hill says the Purchasing Division is considering including a green card pledge in bid specifications.)
TriState owner Anthony DeSimone says he accepts workers’ documents at face value and has never fired a worker because of illegal status. DeSimone says the majority of his workers are Latino, although some are from Eastern Europe, Portugal, and elsewhere. (Vincent D’Elia, Falcon’s owner, did not return phone calls seeking comment.)
Meanwhile, Bill Shuey, executive director of the International Institute in Providence, which aids immigrants, says it’s hard to imagine tens of thousands of undocumented workers being rounded up and deported.
So what’s the answer?
The avoidance of anarchy demands laws either be enforced or modified to be enforceable. State and federal officials, more importantly, are bound to uphold those laws, not to ignore or circumvent them to protect profit or avoid inconvenience.
: This Just In
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