Grand America ICE Audit A Harbinger For Other Utah Businesses?

Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Grand America Hotel had found itself the target of an ICE inspection regarding its employment records (Grand America audit finds undocumented workers).  In the process, the hotel found itself a few workers shorter:

Officials at Salt Lake City’s only five diamond hotel would not comment on how many workers would lose their jobs effective Wednesday, but Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said he’s been following the case and speculated it could be upward of 120 people. Hotel officials would not confirm a number.

Just for fun, I checked to see when Grand America had signed up for E-Verify.  I found that as of June 2011*, they have still not signed up for the program.   That means, for over a year, they have been in violation of Utah’s 2010 law requiring businesses to use E-Verify.

Interestingly, in the Deseret News, Michael Johnson indicates that Grand America did sign up for E-Verify, but that is not the case as of June of this year.  I wouldn’t be surprised that around the time of the audit, ICE had contacted Grand America requesting employment records for their audit and the hotel scrambled to sign up for E-Verify.  Given the sudden supposed compliance with state law, I wonder if their intention was never to sign up for the employment verification program and maintain their pool of cheap labor.  Whatever the case may be, the audit of a large, non-compliant enterprise raises some interesting prospects:

1. Is ICE looking at large companies that aren’t in compliance with Utah’s 2010 E-Verify law?
While ICE will not enforce Utah’s law, looking for non-compliant companies in related laws is a legitimate means of targeting inspections and manpower.

2. Did other competitors file complaints with ICE?
Other hotels using E-Verify can see who is or is not signed up for the system and may have tipped off ICE due to the  illegitimate competitive advantage gained by their non-compliant colleague:

Lori Haley, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, released a statement saying her agency has a responsibility to curb businesses’ appetite for undocumented immigrant labor but wouldn’t confirm the agency did an audit.

“Responsible employers who seek to conduct their business lawfully are put at an unfair disadvantage as they try to compete with unscrupulous businesses,” Haley said in the statement. “Such businesses gain a competitive edge by paying illegal alien workers low wages or otherwise exploiting them. These inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws.”

If, however, ICE is using a list of companies in violation of the 2010 law, it will be interesting to see who else is paid a visit, including some of Utah’s dairy farmers, home builders, and other businesses who aligned themselves with amnesty programs (such as HB116) and intimated that they hire “undocumented workers”.

*Note: June 2011 was the latest database update on the site.  Once NumbersUSA updates the database again this date will no longer be valid as new entries into the database that signed up after June 2011 will appear.

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