New steps block illegal immigrants from working on convention center

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 12:49pm

Project managers overseeing construction of Nashville’s new convention center say they’re taking additional steps to ensure that all workers on the 16-acre site have appropriate documentation.

The new measures come less than a week after state. Rep. Mike Turner filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Labor alleging that the project’s contractor, Bell/Clark Construction, has used illegal immigrants on the work site.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Mayor Karl Dean, the nine-member Convention Center Authority and others, Larry Atema, project manager of the $585 million Music City Center, said all Bell/Clark subcontractors must now read, sign and return letters attesting to the legal documentation of all their employees. It’s essentially a pledge that subcontractors must turn in by Friday.

“We certify that we are not knowingly employing any employees on the Music City Center project who are not authorized to work in the United States, to our knowledge, information and belief,” reads one phrase in the letter subcontractors are required to sign.

Atema also said Bell/Clark is now requiring all subcontractors to hold mandatory training sessions on immigration compliance and verification processes.

Already, the contracts Bell/Clark signs with subcontractors prohibit companies from “knowingly” using the services of illegal immigrants. “Any violation of this requirement will constitute breach of contract and may result in cancellation of the contract,” contracts read.

Convention Center Authority spokeswoman Holly McCall said there have been no illegal immigrants discovered working on the site.

“It’s not an acknowledgement that there’s any issue or that we even suspect there’s any issue,” McCall said of the new steps. “There’s already contract language. And, frankly, even if there wasn’t contract language, it’s the law. The guys at Clark –– and we agree ––wanted to push down to make sure the subcontractors completely understand the importance of this.”


43 Comments on this post:

By: house_of_pain on 7/21/10 at 10:55

Too wishy-washy. Remove the word "knowingly", and place all responsibility squarely on the heads of the employers.

By: Kosh III on 7/21/10 at 11:00

Yes. Knowingly is always their excuse and they get away with it.

Funny, if I get stopped for speeding and claim that I never saw a sign posted the cop will say
Ignorance of the law is no excuse" and write the ticket.

It just shows again that there is one (lax)standard of law for the rich and powerful and another (harsh) standard for the rest of us.

By: Kosh III on 7/21/10 at 11:02

My employer "knowlingly" required that I submit proof of citizenship in the form of birth certificate.

Crack down on these outlaw employers, put a few rich executives in jail for starters.

By: house_of_pain on 7/21/10 at 11:10

"Funny, if I get stopped for speeding and claim that I never saw a sign posted the cop will say
Ignorance of the law is no excuse" and write the ticket. "

No, officer, really...I checked my speedometer when I first got into my car, and it said I was travelling well under the speed limit...clearly not my fault...

By: bfra on 7/21/10 at 11:35

AMEN to all of the above! "Knowingly" is as iffy as "we will TRY".

By: constructioncat on 7/21/10 at 12:10

It is not ignorance of the law folks. Rather, it is ignorance of the validity of the citizenship documentation submitted. Employers are required to collect citizenship/eligibility to work documentation as described on Form I-9 in order to hire anyone. If the documents look real, there is no full-proof way of knowing because you cannot call the social security administration to verify a social security card because THEY CANNOT TALK TO AN EMPLOYER. Additionally, it is against the law to require an employee to provide a birth certificate. Let me quote the law for you "Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) they will accept from an employee."

Employers cannot discriminate against employees because they "look like they might be illegal". The only way to verify citizenship of employees is through E-Verify and there are a lot of hoops to jump through to utilize that program.

Since employers report new hires to the state as required by law, the state should verify the eligibility to work.

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/21/10 at 12:27

Well, I think constructioncat just shut up some misinformed people.

By: morpheus120 on 7/21/10 at 1:42

Construction Cat, you know full well that eVerify is available for private industry to use to determine the citizenship of their employees. And it is free.

As for the "hoops" you are talking about... well, if you have enough time to jump through the hoops of finding subcontractors who hire illegal immigrants, you have enough time to jump through the hoops of using e-Verify. And no, it is not the responsibility of the state to verify these people AFTER THEY'VE DONE THE WORK, it is the business owner's responsibility on the front end to check their backgrounds and make sure they are not hiring illegals.

Stop making excuses for your industry, CC. Businesses that hire illegal immigrants are the core of our immigration problem and frankly, the whole lot of you are un-American - no matter how many American flags or Bush/Cheney stickers you put on your cars.

By: house_of_pain on 7/21/10 at 2:38

Nice try, constructioncat. The employers are just gonna have to try a little harder.
It's their job to know exactly who they're hiring. No excuses. You work for Bell?

By: constructioncat on 7/21/10 at 3:19

Morph – First and foremost, you clearly do not know a thing about commercial construction contracting. Obviously, I did not say or imply that E-verify is not available for our use. I said there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to utilize the program. Though the idea is brilliant, e-verify is not an easy program to navigate. It is not as simple as logging in and running a social; there are rules and regulations that must be followed. Innocent errors can be very costly; many employers are afraid to take the leap because once you start using the program, you cannot stop. Additionally, e-verify will not stop the hiring of illegals; an employer may not use the system to pre-screen employees. An employer must hire an individual before running them through e-verify. If a “Tentative Non-Confirmation” is received, the employee cannot be dismissed, even if they are not performing their job. Tennessee is an employment-at-will state and e-verify challenges that position in regards to the waiting periods for non-discriminatory termination of employment. Moreover, it is free to use however it could be extremely costly to implement. Small businesses that rarely hire employees would only need to train 2-3 staff members in the use and operation of the program; USCIS is not very forgiving regarding HR staff being out sick or on vacation. However, a larger company would need to have at least one full-time staff member, if not several, to implement and maintain the program lawfully.

You are also mistaken if you thought that I was implying it is the state’s responsibility “after they’ve done the work”. Since you do not understand the hiring process, let me help you. In the state of Tennessee, when you hire a new employee you must inform the state of that new hire by going to their website and entering the name and social security number of that employee. This is supposed to occur when they are hired, so on or before their first day of work. What else is the state doing with that information? Why not confirm eligibility to work?

I can only speak for my company and other reputable general contractors; we do not hire illegal aliens. All new hires complete an I-9 and provide the required documentation. If a contractor knowingly hires an illegal, then yes, they are un-American. However, I highly doubt that there are established commercial contractors intentionally hiring illegals in Tennessee, especially since the cost of repercussions far outweigh any possible profit.

By: constructioncat on 7/21/10 at 3:37

Awww, house, bless your little heart. No, I do not work for Bell. Are you by chance a state employee? Maybe legislative staff?

Bell/Clark is not self-performing anything. Therefore, they are not hiring these assumed illegals. They are subcontracting work, and they have done their part to put in place contractual language regarding the hiring of illegal aliens. They have taken the extra step to require subcontractors to complete personnel attestations; the state of TN does the same thing. Again, the idea of e-verify is brilliant however it is not as simple as you are making it out to be.

If the state was taking the hiring of illegals seriously, it would make the use of e-verify law like MS and AL, regardless of the industry. And what about McDonalds? I don’t see anyone beating them up for having Spanish-speaking employees. Contrary to Morph’s opinion, construction contractors are not all bad guys, we’re not all republicans, and the majority of us are as far from “un-American” as it gets.

By: nonnahs on 7/21/10 at 3:43

we need to treat each other better than this. They are trying to earn a living just like everyone else. Why isn't everyone blocking all those big company's that are sending thousands of jobs per month to India? And those companies get tax breaks to keep the jobs here in america. Case in point, Dupont, GMAC, T-mobil yes those are local companies that recently shipped tons of Jobs to India. Why isn't this city official making any noise about that.

By: bfra on 7/21/10 at 3:53

nonnahs - You need to find what "illegal" means! Quick point: illegal is breaking the "law". Taxpayers do not like supporting illegals!

By: slzy on 7/21/10 at 3:56

i have not been in a mcdonalds since they have been full of hispanic workers.

i have not been in a krogers since it was revealed the belmont groper,an illegal alien was employed there.

i walked out of a junk yard today,because the hispanic employees would'nt let me go check on a part myself,when they sure did'nt give a dam about coming here illegally.

vote with your money,folks.

By: slzy on 7/21/10 at 4:54

hmm,the thought just occurred,maybe there was something they did not want me to see. chop shop,maybe?

By: idgaf on 7/21/10 at 5:25

Pain nailed it and frankly I don't trust the dept of labor clearing Turners complaint in one day.

What should be done is that the contractors be made to run all of their employees through that Federal (free) data base that checks them to make sure that the SS #'s match up.

That way there is no question whether they knew or not.. Anyone discovered using false ID should be arrested, not just let go.

By: Kosh III on 7/22/10 at 6:28

The best answer would be for a secure national id card for all citizens. This could be for id, voting, drivers license, quite a bit of diffrent data.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 7/22/10 at 7:37

nonnahs is right. many Mexican families are pretty much economic refugees. NAFTA made the Mexican economy even worse than it was before so the average worker is fleeced there or fleeced again if they come here. Love Thy Neighbor does not stop at the border. be ethical and do the right thing - support immigration reform so that the workers can be here legally and the big companies have to treat them fairly!

By: JeffF on 7/22/10 at 7:45

As someone with HR/payroll experience I can tell you that constructioncat is saying everything that usually comes out of the mouths of people and employers pushing the envelope in order to make a buck.

The use of everify does not open an employer up to civil or criminal penalty. Federal law expressly protects users of the system. The problems (for the slime in this industry) are it gets in the way of hiring the cheapest laborer they can find and it is difficult to use for the amounts of day labor contractors like to use. In other words everify requires them to hire full-time, properly paid and insured Americans and legal resident aliens and that is just not how they have done things for the last 30 years. Stopping by the Nolensville Road convenience store on the way to the job site every morning to pick up coffee and day labor has slowly turned into a right and everify just makes all that difficult.

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 8:11

Blanketnazi2, well said.

slzy, sounds like you have a problem with Hispanics not just illegal immigrants by your McDonalds comment. BTW, I really like McDonalds and go there at least once a week and the employees are very nice and courteous.

By: nonnahs on 7/22/10 at 8:15

Be not decieved God is not mocked, for what soever a man sows that shall he also reap. I live by these words daily. I am affraid to treat someone wrong even though they may be wrong, we need to love each other. Look I am for immigration reform but I am not a supporter of racism. Are you supporters of this mess absolutly sure that oneday you wont be running across the mexican border trying to feed your family? are you sure that wont happen oneday? I bet the Indians used to think the same thing and look what happend to them.

By: nonnahs on 7/22/10 at 8:22

Oh and to the person that walked out of Mcdonalds and the junkyard ect because of hispanic workers, thats your decision I'm sure thier stomachs turn when they see you walking in. But my question is where are gonna go when the few darn jobs we have left are sent to India?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 7/22/10 at 8:38

Despite Public Perception, Border Crime, Illegal Immigration Down

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 8:42

slzy, as for your junkyard experience, most General Liability insurance companies do not allow customers to go into the junkyard itself to take off or check parts.

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 8:58

nonnahs, I have discovered that some who post here do not believe in God. Yes I know, very sad.

By: slzy on 7/22/10 at 9:28

take pride,i do not care what you think.

i do hope you get fat and get diabetes from mcdonalds,though.

By: revo-lou on 7/22/10 at 9:38

"By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 9:58
nonnahs, I have discovered that some who post here do not believe in God. "

So, the error is on who's part?

By: constructioncat on 7/22/10 at 9:38

JeffF, sadly you clearly do not understand e-verify. As I mentioned in a previous post, the state should mandate the use of e-verify for all employers in this state as other states have done. This way, good contractors won't be confused with the few shady contractors out there. On the other hand, you are wrong if you think there are no costs or risks associated with the use of the program from a legitimate contractors stand point. As a side note, Music City Center is a prevailing wage job (State 2009-2010 Building Prevailing Wage Rates); therefore, every laborer receives the same wage of $12.41 per hour (unskilled) unless their employer pays them more, regardless of their nationality.

By: Loretta Bridge on 7/22/10 at 9:53

I thought EVERY employer was suppose to check records before they hire ANYONE.
This is the problem throughout the USA. The government needs to start to HEAVLY
fine employers for hiring illegal immigrants and do it consistently. I bet if they had to pay fine they would stop and check before they hire. They find the time to do drug test so why can't they find the time to check papers. If they would then maybe the unemployment rate would go down. I AM TIRED OF OUR GOVERNMENT NOT ENFORCING IT'S OWN LAWS.

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 10:22

Loretta, did you not read anything constructioncat posted?

By: Loretta Bridge on 7/22/10 at 10:27

TakePrideInNash....I did read that post but you obvious don't get mine.

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 10:29

slzy, not everyone gets fat and gets diabetes from eating at McDonalds. BTW, my point was were all or any her illegal? Oh, and thank you for the well wishes.~

By: TakePrideInNash on 7/22/10 at 11:10

Should be "all or any THERE illegal?

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 12:38

It just shows again that there is one (lax)standard of law for the rich and powerful and another (harsh) standard for the rest of us.

Kosh if a rich businessman is employing an illegal, aren't they both benefitting at some level?

And if rich people don't have the initiative to operate a business for profit, wouldn't that hurt the so-called "little" man or less fortunate? I don't hear of too many people on the dole starting up a business -- legally - that is.

My sister has 8 people on her payroll; her husband, her son, herself plus 5 other non-relatives. She pays well and treats them all equally well. She works 18 hours a day sometimes; so does her hubby. Are they part of the rich and powerful? No, they are hardworking, roll up your sleeves, sweat and get the job done bonafide Americans.

Small business (10 mill and under) are what is running this country. Why do you hate wealthy people so much? There are as many (or more) poor crooks as there are rich crooks.

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 12:41

Obama signed the new law. IF you received an overpayment from the gov-ment or a check from any part of the gov-ment that you SHOULD NOT have received, the current gov-ment is coming after you with guns loaded.

They paid out 1 billion dollars under obama's watch (2009) to people who SHOULD NOT HAVE RECEIVED THE FUNDS. My question: What will happen to the dumb ass in the goverment who approved the check, cut the check and signed the check?

Well, nothing of course. It was not THEIR job to verify the funds BEFORE sending them out. More stupid government gone wild.

The OVERPAYMENT Repayment law is about to kick in.

d7, if you got a check, send the money back. I'm sending mine back.

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 12:44

slzy on 7/22/10 at 10:28
take pride,i do not care what you think.

i do hope you get fat and get diabetes from mcdonalds,though.

Slzy this is mean spirited and hate-filled. Fat and diabetes is so harmful and hurts. I have no micky d related illness, and I eat there also.

It is all a matter of how often and WHAT one orders. I love their egg mcmuffin with no cheese and their $1 coffee.

Remember if you put the cup between your legs and spill it on your crotch, you can sue for 1 million dollars. It's easier than playing the lottery and cheaper.

By: producer2 on 7/22/10 at 1:34

don't mind JeffF, he is an expert on everything, just ask him. Also don't confuse these folks with facts, it just gets in their way of total negativity. I wondered how long it would be before Obama got blamed for the issues with building the MCC, thanks budlight for bringing that to our attention. You folks are truly comical, thanks for the daily relief from reality.....

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 1:39

I wondered how long it would be before Obama got blamed for the issues with building the MCC, thanks budlight for bringing that to our attention.

producer, I'm not following on the MCC. I was talking about a NEW law signed today to allow the gov-ment to go out and find the 2009 "over payments" that they made. What are you talking about?

By: producer2 on 7/22/10 at 1:47

What was the need then to bring it up in this thread? You obviously are trying to inject your political beliefs into the discussion. Does this have anything to do with or add value to the subject at hand?

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 2:11

Well, producer since you are the freedom of speech cop, I'll just tuck my tail, put my head down in shame and go away.

Yes, it adds value to those who have not heard it just announced and they can google it.

I stated a fact: not a political belief. BUT since you bring it up. Why establish the OVERPAYMENT recovery law? Why not just be more thoughtful and careful BEFORE cutting the wrong checks or the wrong amounts?

And in case you never noticed, people bring up all kinds of things on all the threads. BUT thanks for admonishing me. I so sorry!

By: producer2 on 7/22/10 at 2:19

really what part was fact, that he signed the bill or the rest of your diatribe about why you believe it was unnecessary and all his fault? I like it, the facts according to budlight.... now can we go back to the topic at hand?

By: budlight on 7/22/10 at 4:23

no,cause you ain't nice. you must be d7. and you love obama, you want to date him, you want to kiss him; you want to marry him.

By: producer2 on 7/22/10 at 5:38

now I am embarrassed for you...