Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Hotel would be downtown immigrant-labor center

Hotel would be downtown immigrant-labor center

Jun. 9, 2004 12:00 AM

The Phoenix City Council is expected to vote soon on whether to profit from the illegal labor of Mexican immigrants.

It's not going to be presented that way, of course. Instead, the council will vote on whether or not to build a downtown hotel with $300 million of taxpayer money.

But, by doing so, the city will become part of two industries that depend on illegal labor: construction and hospitality.

These companies don't technically violate the law, of course. They don't knowingly hire someone here illegally. They just don't verify the Social Security numbers that workers give them. The law doesn't require it, and some employers say they fear civil rights lawsuits if they scrutinize only Latinos' numbers.

That's the situation that has made a mockery of immigration laws and has made penalties for illegal hiring almost non-existent.

The city does have some say over how the hotel is built and operated. It gets to pick the location and it gets to make demands on the level of service the hotel provides.

It could also dictate labor practices. It could require that all workers' Social Security numbers be validated before they start on the job. Doing so would be a great experiment to see if a hotel could be built and operate with legal workers or if these truly are jobs no one wants.

The City Council frets over spending a few thousand on a day-labor center but probably won't blink over this labor. As long as the illegal work is out of sight, there's no controversy.

Reach Ruelas at (602) 444-8473 or


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