A company contracted to build a border fence between San Diego and Mexico has been ordered to pay $5 million in fines—for hiring illegal immigrants.
It’s not the first time The Golden State Fence Company has come out on the wrong side of the law for hiring undocumented workers, according to NPR. A 1999 immigration check found workers without papers on the company’s payroll. Follow-up checks in 2004 and 2005 found that the same employees were still working.
As many of a third of the company’s 750 workers may be undocumented, according to U.S. Attorney Carol Lam. Work on the border fence was one of the company’s projects.
The company’s president and one Southern California manager will pay a total of $300,000 in fines. Two of the company’s executives, Melvin Kay and Michael McLaughlin, may also face jail time. The government recommended six months.
The punishment is unusual for this type of infraction. Executives for companies who employ illegal workers usually don’t face criminal prosecution at all. For example, Swift, a meatpacking company, was found this week to be employing over 1,300 illegal workers, but faces no charges.
Golden State Fence's attorney, Richard Hirsch, admitted that his client broke the law, but argued that the wrongdoing shows the need for a guest-worker program.
Comedian George Lopez seems to have seen this one coming.
“They want to build a fence along the border to keep out Mexicans, but who's gonna build it?" he quipped in a stand-up routine.