Immigration Enforcement

Frustrated local contractor asks: Who will do something about impact of illegal immigration on law-abiding employers?

Alamance News

by Tomas Murawski

The issue of illegal immigration is more than just a
series of talking points to Kim Oliver. The Burlington
native believes that his very livelihood may be at
stake as more businesses break tax laws and other
regulations to hire undocumented workers.

For more than a decade, Oliver has owned and operated
O & S Concrete, a construction subcontractor along
Graham-Hopedale Road. The business owner insists that,
during that time, he has followed all of the labor and
tax laws that govern his industry, and he believes
that his conscientiousness has served him well over
the years.

But Oliver said that things began to change for the
worse a couple of years ago.
“I noticed that I was losing a lot of my contractors,”
the business owner recalled, “and I couldn’t figure
out where all of my business was going.”

Oliver said that the businesses which siphoned away
his clients were somehow able to charge much lower
prices for concrete. He said that he just couldn’t
match his competitors’ rates and continue to pay his
workers fair wages – at least not when he factored in
the required deductions for payroll taxes,
unemployment insurance, and social security.

Oliver said he suspected that some of his competitors
may have relied on illegal labor to undercut his
rates. But the business owner couldn’t substantiate
his hunch until he got in touch with an activist group
called NC Voice, which formed about a year ago in
response to a national furor about illegal
immigration.

Oliver and some of the group’s other members decided
to investigate a few of the companies that had
recently broken into the industry.

“We gathered their business cards,” Oliver said. “Some
of them said they were incorporated. Some of them said
they were LLCs. But these businesses only existed on
the business cards, and that’s it.”

Oliver said that he and his colleagues researched each
of these businesses, and they couldn’t find any record
of them at the tax offices in Burlington and other
area communities. He said that he knew some of these
companies were working on jobs in the area. But they
never applied for the privilege licenses that
subcontractors and many other businesses must obtain
in order to operate within a particular city or town.

Oliver said that he also had reason to think that some
of these businesses weren’t withholding payroll taxes
for their employees or obtaining the insurance that
they must have by law. The business owner said he was
able to confirm this suspicion in the case of one
subcontractor.

“I sent one of my part-time workers to work for him
just to see if he would remit any taxes,” Oliver said,
“and he didn’t remit any taxes.”

The wheels of government

After months of investigation, Oliver and other
members of NC Voice compiled a list of about 40 area
businesses that were either operating illegally or
hadn’t been paying their taxes. Not all of these
businesses relied on the labor of illegal immigrants,
and NC Voice didn’t make any claims that they did. But
the group still wanted these companies to comply with
the regulations that they were apparently dodging. So,
its members began to meet with local government
leaders in the hope that the information they found
would inspire some change in the halls of government.

One of the first places that Oliver went was
Burlington’s tax office, which maintains records on
businesses that have received privilege licenses from
the city. Frank Hope, the city’s revenue collections
director, said that he was, indeed, able to act on
some of the information that Oliver presented to him
and his staff.

“There were definitely some businesses that didn’t
have privilege licenses,” Hope explained in an
interview. “We made some phone calls, and sent some
letters, and they came in immediately.”

Hope said that he counts on members of the public to
bring information like this to his attention. The
city’s revenue collections director said that his
department enforces licensure requirements on a
complaint-based system, so the city may not even know
of a violation unless someone reports it. Hope said
that his department deals with all of these reports as
quickly as possible.

Oliver hasn’t received nearly as prompt a response
from some of the other agencies he has contacted. He
said that, over the past several months, he has been
in touch with several county leaders as well as a
whole rolodex-worth of state and federal officials.

“This information was sent to [Congressman] Howard
Coble’s office,” Oliver said; “it was sent to
[Senator] Elizabeth Dole’s office and to [state
attorney general] Roy Cooper’s office. I also sent it
to the [state] department of revenue.”

Oliver acknowledged that he has heard back from some
of these people and agencies. He said that Elizabeth
Dole
’s office offered to pass his information along to
the IRS, and he added that a representative of Roy
Cooper was the one who referred him to the department
of revenue. But so far, he said, he has little to show
for his labors.

“It’s like nobody gives a crap anymore,” the business
owner insisted. “They don’t care if our businesses
suffer.”

At war with the county

Oliver has been especially critical of Alamance
County’s government, which he and the group’s other
members have contacted on several occasions.

About three months ago, Oliver approached Alamance
County’s commissioners with Mike Kelley, another
member of NC Voice, and the two of them requested a
private meeting with the county’s governing board.
They told the commissioners that they had tried, and
failed, to present the information they’ve gathered to
Alamance County’s staff, and on the whole, they got an
enthusiastic response from the commissioners.

The group’s members ultimately sat down with
commissioners Ann Vaughan and Tim Sutton, who were
joined by county manager David I. Smith during the
confab, which took place in January. The group has
also met with Clyde Albright, the county’s assistant
attorney, who has been tasked with preparing the
county’s formal response to the group.

Albright insists that the county can’t do a thing
about some of Oliver’s concerns. He said, for example,
that the issue of privilege licenses is entirely
outside the county’s purview because cities, and not
counties, have the authority to license most
businesses in North Carolina.

Albright said that many of Oliver’s other complaints
are just as impossible for the county to address.

“The county has primary responsibility for public
health and safety and fire safety,” the county’s
assistant attorney said in an interview. “What he
wants us to do is regulate businesses, and we are
prohibited by the state of North Carolina to pass any
ordinance that regulates labor.”

But labor regulations aren’t the only thing that
Oliver has mentioned to county officials. The business
owner has proffered a number of recommendations, which
include simple, straightforward suggestions as well as
other more complex ones about the issues of tax fraud
and housing as well as illegal labor.

Among other things, Oliver suggests a tip line for
housing violations, which wouldn’t do anything about
the county’s illegal labor force, although in Oliver’s
estimation, it would prevent large numbers of illegal
immigrants from crowding into houses whose septic
systems can’t support the demand. He also advises the
county to modify its application for building permits
so that it obtains the identities of every
subcontractor who works on a project in addition to
the general contractor.

Oliver said he has yet to hear back about any of these
recommendations, and a few weeks ago, he became so
exasperated with the county’s seemingly slow response
that he wrote a rather stern letter to the county
manager. The letter insists that Albright promised to
provide a response within 30 days, and it rejects the
idea that the county is unable to do anything about
Oliver’s complaints.

“So long as everyone in government takes the position
that nothing can be done, nothing will be done,”
Oliver states in his letter. “That is an unacceptable
outcome that cannot be tolerated.”

A plea for patience

Albright insists that he never told Oliver he’d get a
response within 30 days or any other period of time.

“We didn’t give ourselves a deadline,” the assistant
county attorney emphasized. “We talked about the
federal preemption issue. We talked about the
inability of the county to regulate what he wanted us
to do. We are preparing a response to that, but it’s
taking some time.”

Albright said that he has tried to give Oliver’s
request its due diligence. The county’s assistant
attorney said he has examined ordinances in other
parts of the state but has found them inadequate. He
said that most of these rules are “English-only”
requirements, which he describes as “a Band-Aid”
approach to the issues that Oliver wants to address.

Albright said that he’s still looking at some of the
other options available to county. He added, however,
that he has a duty to make sure that the county has
the legal right to pass and enforce any measure that
the commissioners decide to approve.

Albright’s call for patience is echoed by commissioner
Sutton, who insists that he and other county officials
share many of Oliver’s concerns about illegal
immigration. Sutton pointed to other programs that the
county has already implemented, including a federal
initiative called Section 287(g), which allows the
sheriff’s department to press immigration charges
against people brought to the county jail for other
offenses.

“I would remind Mr. Kelly and Mr. Oliver that it took
us 10 years to get something as far as Section 287(g)
goes,” the commissioner said. “Give us a chance to do
our job. I will assure you we’re doing all we can do
in a reasonable period of time.”

But Oliver is just as emphatic that county officials
and other government leaders shouldn’t put off his
concerns.

“It’s gotta stop somewhere down the line,” the
business owner insisted. “The Graham city council, the
Burlington city council, the county commissioners –
they need to stop this mayhem. I think all our local
governments need to be interconnected to protect small
businesses.

“When we’re run out of business,” Oliver added, “who
are they going to get taxes from?”

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March 28, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Maybe it is time to look into the RICO act for many of these companies. I believe it allows for compensation up to two time the losses.

    I’ve heard that a contractor using illegal labor can reduce his cost by around 33%. Besides the medical cost of his employees gets shifted to the honest people in the country like the competition he is under bidding.

    We are going to have to restore law and order in our government before we can restore law and order in our streets.

    Comment by Carson | March 30, 2008

  2. Quote; “I would remind Mr. Kelly and Mr. Oliver that it took
    us 10 years to get something as far as Section 287(g)
    goes,” the commissioner said. “Give us a chance to do
    our job. I will assure you we’re doing all we can do
    in a reasonable period of time.”

    The Revolutionaries in the government have been giving us this line for several decades!

    Not only are they guilty of treason for not upholding their oaths of office they have been lying, cheating, and stealing and anything else it takes to subvert they very laws they have debated and passed into law.

    The Constitution of the United States of America

    Article IV

    Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

    Comment by Carson | March 30, 2008

  3. Law abiding employers should be commended for doing the right thing. Perhaps before any level of government will take this issue seriously is when they see less money coming in due to the nod and wink unscrupulous employers are getting. This is happening all over the country and needs to be stopped!

    Comment by lynn | March 30, 2008

  4. This is just not right that our government refuses to take care of American contractors and American workers. Call Your Representatives and tell them to pass the Save Act HR 4088. We will not make a difference until everyone calls and e-mails congress and demands they enforce our immigration laws and pass laws to protect Americans….get on it and stay on it until they make changes…we can do this!!

    Comment by SOSAFORUS | March 30, 2008


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