Construction industry brings more awareness to illegal worker problem

Chris Duechar
Chris Duechar
Russell Smith
Russell Smith

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Recent illegal immigrant raids have prompted leaders in the construction industry to ramp up their efforts to stop this ongoing problem.

Their motto is "Play by the rules or don't play at all."

The Pacific Resource Partnership has been around for almost 30 years. The group looks after Hawaii's construction industry.

Their most recent concern is employers hiring illegal immigrants. That's why they formed the "Play Fair in Hawaii" campaign.

"We don't begrudge anyone who is an immigrant who comes to Hawaii or comes to the United States to chase the american dream, but we really have an issue against employers who hire these people at the expense of making a quick buck," Pacific Resource Partnership's Kyle Chock said.

Recent immigration raids include one on Maui in may at two chain restaurants.

Then just last month, authorities raided a Waipahu apartment complex. All of them worked for an agriculture company.

Last December at a downtown Honolulu construction site and a Halawa warehouse, authorities arrested more foreign nationals.

The "Play Fair in Hawaii" campaign is out in full force, with a Web Site and television commericals.

But construction bosses say they have strict rules about hiring people.

"We make a decision based on price, time and who can do the best job, we're equal opportunity employers," U.S. Pacific Development's Chris Deuchar said. "If they're qualified and they can do the work, we'll hire who we think will do best,"

Others are just hoping for a fair shot.

"This is the first opportunity to come out to Hawaii because my son is in the navy and I got out here and I was number 485 on the out of work list in the union and so I haven't worked since," Russell Smith said.

The next step in the Play Fair in Hawaii" campaign is introducing legislation in the fall.

"We hope that lawmakers take this issue seriously and help us with enforcement," Chock said.

Enforcing a law that helps build Hawaii's economy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials we spoke to say a spike in recent funding has increased their efforts, but it's a challenge.

They say illegal workers isolating themselves makes it hard for authorities to find them.