The construction industry is not the only one in this country who relies heavily on the time and energy of undocumented workers. This is also especially pervasive in manufacturing and agriculture companies. The reasons for this are probably obvious: not only are fewer legal workers actively taking on these types of positions but those who do generally cost much more per hour. 

However, these industries – including construction – are finding themselves facing a number of hiring issues. Recent administrations have been cracking down on undocumented labor, which has had a huge effect on companies and individuals alike. 

Many individuals are being deported

The number of deportations increased during the Obama administration, and have shown no sign of slowing down in recent years during the Trump administration. This means that the availability of affordable skilled labor continues to dwindle. It is possible for some companies to issue visas designed to bring individuals into the country, but these visas are really for seasonal industries – such as agriculture and hospitality – and may not benefit year-round construction work. 

Audits and penalties are on the rise 

The number of audits more than quadrupled from 2017 to 2018. The result has been ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issuing some of the largest fines in its history. In terms of cost, fines can vary hugely. They can be in the hundreds of dollars range, or upwards of tens of thousands. Depending on the number of fines that a company is issued, this could force a project to come to an abrupt halt or put the company out of business entirely. 

Additional fees and expenses 

With the processes outlined above, it is becoming increasingly difficult for construction companies to adhere to federal rules and regulations surrounding hiring. First of all, from the time that an audit is issued, companies only have a few days to compile all of the necessary materials. This is not a lot of time and can quickly derail current work. 

Depending on the outcome of the audit, company owners and general contractors could potentially be charged criminally, particularly if the government uncovers a pattern of under-the-table hiring. If a company or company owner is charged, they will likely need to pay additional fines to cover their legal fees. 

Not to mention, if it is uncovered that a company is hiring undocumented workers in an attempt to pay them lower or unfair wages, the company’s reputation will likely suffer. This can have a huge effect on current and future clients, who may very well decide to take their business elsewhere. 


Photo by EJ Yao on Unsplash