It's Friday - a good time to kick the hornet's nest of illegal immigration and see what happens. Mitt Romney wants to be the baddest Republican dude on illegals - toss 'em out, every last one of the 12 or so million. His position on undocumented workers is similar to former MA Governor Bill Weld's position on crime: "somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun."
So it's with considerable embarassment that Romney is exposed as someone who is dependent upon the labor of undocumented workers (just like the rest of us). First, it was his lawn company, which used undocumented workers, promised not to, and then was caught doing it again. Safe to say their bid was one of the lowest - as their labor costs would be lower than a competitor hiring U.S. citizens.
Then Romney gets his house painted (salmon color, for those of you who might be interested). He chose Olympic Painting and Roofing, a contractor with a long history of employment problems. (Romney probably liked the name - it reminded him of his success in running the Olympic games.) The Boston Globe quotes Olympic owner George Vasiliades as denying that he employed illegal immigrants at Romney's house - or anyplace else.
Vasiliades's record is spotty, to say the least. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to workers' compensation fraud charges and failing to pay unemployment tax contributions. He was sentenced to one year probation, and ordered to pay a $250 fine, court costs, and $4,880 in restitution to three employees. Olympic is currently under investigation by the attorney general's office for allegedly paying numerous workers off the books.
Olympic is also part of a federal investigation into the Aug. 31 death of Benedelso Ovalle of Lynn, who fell from a 2 1/2-story church in Salem while working for an Olympic subcontractor, BC Construction. Ovalle was a 17-year-old illegal immigrant from Guatemala, according to his family's lawyer, Anne Gugino Carrigan. According to the police report, Ovalle was not wearing a safety harness before he fell, and neither were two of five other workers at the scene. (Perhaps the safety manual was written in English.)
Of course, Vasiliades defends himself by asserting that he is not responsible for the actions of a subcontractor. I'm sure he was shocked - shocked! - that no fall protection was in place.
As part of his Iowa strategy, Romney is working diligently to secure the endorsement of U.S. Representative Steve King, who has identified illegal immigration as the most important litmus test for Republican presidential candidates. When King selected a contractor to paint his own house, he was not content to secure verbal assurances that all the employees doing the work had proper documentation. He decided to hang around the house while they were working, listening oh-so-carefully for Spanish accents - a sure sign (for King at least) of illegality. Maybe Romney could pick up a few tricks about household management from King.
This post began with the image of a hornet's nest. Let's end with one, too. Driving to work on this frozen Friday, I saw a bird perched beside a huge football-sized nest. All the insect inhabitants were presumably frozen. The bird was plucking them out and eating them, one by one, as if they were delicacies on a platter. That image may contain a lesson for all the politicians trying to confront the undocumented worker dilemma: let's chill out. Let's avoid inflaming an already over-heated situation. Sometimes a little perspective and dispassion can take the sting out of an issue and make it more manageable. After all, come spring, someone has to mow the lawns and paint the houses.