Park City’s resort economy relies on service workers who work in the hospitality industry. Immigrants, many undocumented, often make up that work force. Recently, national headlines have broadcast government plans to hold raids and round ups in some cities. KPCW brought an immigration lawyer on the Local News Hour to talk about undocumented immigrants and Customs Enforcement efforts.
Mark Alvarez is an Immigration Attorney practicing in Salt Lake City. He says currently, more people coming into the country are becoming undocumented by overstaying their visa limits. He says the government data shows the median undocumented immigrant has lived in the United States for over 13 years. News coverage tends to focus on the asylum seekers and migrant caravans.
“These are not people who have recently overstayed their visas or sneaked across the border. These are people who have been living here for more than a decade. I know this is true in Park City but a lot of the people working and living there, who are undocumented, have worked and lived there for many, many years, probably over a decade.”
Alvarez says he has seen immigrants using fake documents but says it’s typically not categorized as identity theft.
“The document was not created from somebody else’s identity. A lot of times, the number is just taken out of the air and given as a social security number. Now, those numbers oftentimes won’t match in the Social Security Administrations data base, but the Social Security Administration has been reluctant to send no match letters on a broad scale for many, many years. Because, I think people in government know it would cause havoc in many, many parts of our economy. I certainly know it would cause havoc in the ski industry.”
Alvarez believes that Governor Herbert and others don’t want a federal crackdown because it would harm important industries. However, he feels the current immigration system isn’t working for businesses and people.
“Unfortunately, most of the talk on immigration is about protecting our own. Be it culture. Be it schools. Be it our economy. I don’t think Governor Herbert would be clamoring to have immigration take good workers from Park City out of the ski industry, out of the hospitality industry.”
Alvarez says he has seen cases where undocumented individuals, who are not on a deportation list, can get caught up in ICE investigations.
“People can actually refuse entry to an ICE officer unless there’s a judicial warrant. But the ICE officer will go in and start asking indiscriminately, won’t just ask the person who might be the target of the investigation. Others do get caught up in those types of operations. For example, an Immigration Officer might be looking for somebody who has a criminal record, but on entering the house may start asking anybody who’s present about immigration status. If some of those people answer and they’re out of status, it may be that the ICE Officer takes the initiative to place the person in proceedings.”
Alvarez says it’s highly unlikely someone who is pulled over for a traffic stop would face immigration violation charges. However, ICE would be called into criminal cases like a DUI or for outstanding arrest warrants.
“If immigration violations were criminalized, the defendants would have a right to a trial by jury which would add quite a lot of expense onto an already burdened system. And so, I don’t think it’s accurate to characterize immigration violations as misdemeanors or infractions. They’re civil offenses, not criminal offenses.”
Attorney Mark Alvarez writes and speaks on immigration reform.