July 24, 2007

Road Builder will not bid on jobs in Gwinnett County: ‘I WANT MY ILLEGAL LABOR!’

Posted by D.A. King at 10:41 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  

From ther AJC:

Road builder won’t bid for jobs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 07/24/07

One of Georgia’s biggest road-building companies says it won’t bid on any more Gwinnett County contracts β€” for now β€” as a result of a new county policy meant to crack down on illegal immigrants.

E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. told the county commissioners in a July 9 letter that it had “serious concerns” about an ordinance the commissioners adopted June 26. The ordinance requires companies that do county business to verify that their workers are in the United States legally.

Snell is the prime contractor on four of seven state road projects in Gwinnett β€” work that costs $72 million, said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation. It’s also a company with strong roots in Gwinnett: The city of Snellville is named for the family behind the company.

Snell’s letter is one of several the commissioners have received in recent weeks that questions or criticizes the ordinance. The Journal-Constitution obtained the letters Monday through the state Open Records Act.

“We have serious concerns with certain parts of the obligations imposed upon us by the ordinance,” wrote Vice President David Snell. “For this reason we wish to inform you that E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. will suspend bidding on all Gwinnett County contracts until we become satisfied that we can comply with the obligations imposed upon us by the ordinance.”

Snell’s letter argues that some of the verification requirements are unworkable and possibly illegal. Snell did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Gwinnett Commissioner Lorraine Green, who sponsored the new ordinance, said she has met with Snell since receiving his letter.

“I believe we have fully explained the procedures to Mr. Snell and others and I think we have satisfied their concerns,” Green said.

On June 26, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners revised a purchasing ordinance to require vendors bidding on county contracts to provide evidence that their workers, as well the employees of their subcontractors, are not illegal immigrants.

It also empowers county auditors to inspect the work sites of companies after they’ve won bids and started working on a project. That includes inspecting the companies records and interviewing its workers.

Snell called the new ordinance “well-intentioned,” and he complimented the commissioners for “seeking to alleviate the undocumented immigrant worker issue.” But he said it would be impractical β€” and possibly unconstitutional β€”for the company to do what the ordinance requires.

For example, Snell wrote that requiring companies to divulge the Social Security numbers of employees to county auditors “violates the privacy and legal rights of our employees.”

Some of Snell’s complaints were echoed by Charles Surasky, an attorney for the Georgia Utility Contractors Association.

In a July 16 letter to the board, Surasky argued that the ordinance is unconstitutional on at least three grounds: It’s pre-empted by existing federal immigration law, it usurps the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate immigration and violates the due process rights of contractors.

Surasky also warned that the ordinance is likely to be challenged in federal court.

“The amount of expense and time involved in defending a federal lawsuit should not be underestimated,” Surasky wrote. “Taxpayers’ money could potentially be used to fund years of litigation in defense of an ordinance that will likely be struck down.”

“[It] will have a negative effect,” Surasky wrote ” on the people it purports to protect: the citizens and taxpayers of Gwinnett County.”
read the rest here.