Union Tips Off Border Patrol in Immigration Crackdown

Lou Michel, Buffalo News, March 9, 2017

Federal agents are not the only ones trying to remove people from the Buffalo area who have entered the country illegally.

If Bill Bing, a carpenters union official, discovers workers at local construction projects suspected of being in the country illegally, the union tips off authorities.

That information has led to some raids and arrests, he said, although the detention last month of 32 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally and working at projects was not his tip.

“We were not directly responsible for the information on those two raids,” said Bing, the local representative for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

Bing said he is glad to see the enforcement of immigration laws and makes no apologies for when he or other union members tip off federal and state authorities.

The jobs should go to American citizens and that it is not a union-versus-nonunion issue, he said.

“There are very good local union and nonunion contractors who suffer the fallout from dirty business,” Bing said. “This directly affects area living standards, not to mention the tax dollars New York State, Erie County and the local municipalities don’t and won’t see.”

Other trade unions, he said, tip off authorities, “but they are not as proactive as we are. The carpenters union devotes a lot of money and resources to this.”

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Economy affected

And it is not only unions who tip off ICE and the Border Patrol, according to Amherst immigration lawyer Michael B. Berger. Construction contractors provide information to federal authorities if they believe a competitor has gained an unfair advantage by employing less expensive undocumented immigrants, he said.

“This especially happens in roofing and siding work often performed by undocumented workers and certainly unions and construction companies that rely on union workers see it as an unfair disadvantage,” Berger said. “I’ve had clients tell me that they were arrested because of tips from other contractors.”

Berger, an immigration lawyer of 40 years, said the Trump administration’s focus on enforcement of immigration laws could harm the local economy.

“There has to be a safety valve to prevent overreaction to remove illegal aliens from this country without consideration to the consequences of the local economy,” he said, pointing out that Western New York farmers are often unable to hire Americans.

“So they rely very heavily on undocumented workers,” he said.

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