Local labor leaders are calling for a crackdown on illegal immigrants after the arrests of 6 workers employed at a building project near Syracuse University.
The local union leaders called CNY Central to publicize what they see as a growing problem with illegal aliens taking local jobs away from local workers, union and non-union alike. Tony Castrello of the Sheetmetal Workers Union says some of the biggest construction projects are hiring sub-contractors from as far away as Arizona and Texas. "They get hired through a general contractor that's local, and they bring in companies and what we're finding is that they're bringing illegals in to do these projects which is taking away work from local labor."
T hat's what may have happened at a dormitory under construction by EDR Realty on land leased by Syracuse University. The project is managed by the Haynor Hoyt Corporation. Ross Feinstein, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirms that Homeland Security recently arrested of 6 workers. Four are in federal custody while two will go before an immigration judge. Feinstein said he could not elaborate because it's an ongoing investigation.
Ron Haney of the Roofers Union said, "it seems like these contractors will break all the rules in the game to be the successful bidder and to make money. It's not about the community. It's not about people. It's about filling their pockets."
H aynor Hoyt CEO Gary Thurston says the company requires their sub-contractors to provide documentation about their workers. He says "As far as I knew everyone on this site was legal and had a right to be in the United States.
T hurston said he was unaware of the arrests and added: " W e certainly are not people who would even smell of an illegal situation." The company's President Jeremy Thurston says the company has been rated as one of the top employers in New York State. "We give local contractors a lot of work."
B ut the labor leaders say what happened at S.U. is just one example. Over the last two years, they took surveillance photos of workers on a number of construction jobs who they say are illegal aliens brought in by out of state sub-contractors.
Luke Renna of the Bricklayers Union says the hiring of illegal immigrants has an impact on the local economy. "These people that are working on these jobs are getting paid and not spending the money in this community." Tony Castrello says local unions were recently asked by Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler to recruit city youth into apprenticeship programs as a way to cut down on crime. "We had to look at the Police Chief in the eye and say we're almost to the point where we have to close our doors to hiring because we don??t have the work for them because we have companies out there bringing illegals in doing the work of local labor."
The labor leaders are calling for more investigators with the State Labor Department and Homeland Security to crackdown, not only on illegal immigrants, but also the contractors who hire them. Renna told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "the only way to stop this is you have to go after the unscrupulous contractors."
Since 2009, Homeland Security has audited at least 7,533 companies suspected of hiring illegal workers, arrested 884 employers and have imposed about $100 million in fines and penalties. Gary Swan feels more needs to be done, Contractors have to be arrested. It's the only way you're going to stop it, you have to arrest the boss." He added, "The jobs are here. Why are we giving them away. It's wrong...real wrong."
Syracuse University spokesman Kevin Quinn pointed out "This is not our project, it's being built by EDR Realty. We are not connected to the project other than leasing the land. That said, we wouldn't condone the hiring of illegal workers."