- Five North Texas construction executives have been charged with felonies in U.S. District Court in Dallas for their roles in processing undocumented workers through a labor staffing company so that they could then be put to work at a Kennedale, Texas-based concrete company, Speed Fab-Crete Corp. Carl Eugene Hall, David Leon Bloxom and Ronald Alan Hamm were Speed Fab-Crete owners and principals at the time of the offenses, while Robert Edwin James was the chief financial officer. Mark Sevier was the owner of Take Charge Staffing.
- Prosecutors said that after an October 2015 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) audit of I-9 Employer Review and Verification forms at Speed Fab-Crete, the company was found to have more than 41 undocumented employees on its payroll. As part of a settlement agreement, Speed Fab-Crete said that 39 workers had been terminated, with only two securing legal work authorization. However, prosecutors claim that 23 of the undocumented workers continued their employment at Speed Fab-Crete as employees of Take Charge, even though the defendants knew the individuals could not work legally in the U.S.
- Hall and Sevier were charged with conspiracy to unlawfully harbor illegal aliens, and, according to their plea agreements, face up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release. Bloxom, Hamm and James were charged with unlawful employment of aliens and, according to their plea agreements, face up to six months in jail, up to a year of supervised release and a $3,000 fine per undocumented worker.
It is more common for undocumented workers to participate in projects as independent contractors because those workers do not have to provide the same information — i.e. proof of citizenship or work authorization — that employees do.
And contractors have had to deal with increased government enforcement in this area for some time. ICE audits of I-9 forms are on the rise, according to the National Law Review, increasing in number from 1,360 to 5,981 between 2017 and 2018. The agency sent 3,282 audit notices in July. ICE has also been levying record fines.
In a September 2017 case similar to Speed Fab-Crete's, ICE fined Asplundh Tree Expert Co., based in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, $95 million after the company pleaded guilty to hiring undocumented workers between 2010 and 2014. Prosecutors said Asplundh also rehired some of the workers it was forced to fire after previous ICE investigations.
Even with the threat of ICE raids, however, some contractors are likely to continue to use undocumented workers in order to realize savings and meet the demand for skilled labor in the midst of an industrywide shortage. According to the 2020 Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey, two of the biggest contractor concerns heading into 2020 are worker shortages and the increasing cost of direct labor. More than 80% of those surveyed said they were having a hard time filling both salaried and hourly craft positions.