Illegal Immigrants Hired to Shovel Snow at Gillette Stadium

The Ravens ended the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIV dream on Jan. 10. Four days prior to that, another more serious clash ensued when 60 undocumented Guatemalan immigrants hired to shovel snow at Gillette Stadium were stopped by immigration agents on their way to Foxboro, the Providence Journal reports. Nine were detained. The rest were allowed to go to the stadium to work and told to attend future immigration proceedings. 

Now the stadium is under scrutiny, but is it to blame?

Patriots and Gillette Stadium spokesman Stacey James said the team has severed its contract with Legal Pro-Temps, the company that hired the Guatemalan workers. James said the Patriots had used the company to put together crews to prepare for games since 2008 and that it was the company's responsibility to make sure workers are documented.  

According to the Providence Journal, the Legal Pro-Temps office was abandoned after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stopped the workers.  The accountant said that the most recent owner, Elburke Lamson, used to work for All Stars Labor before taking over his father's business. Gillette admitted to using All Stars Labor for clean-up crews before it hired Legal Pro-Temps. Lamson said he assembled the crews through an unidentified Providence man. Lamson said he did not receive workers' papers for that morning.

Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform Co-chairman Joe Ureneck believes Gillette Stadium should make sure workers have legal documentation, the Boston Globe reports.

"The buck has to stop somewhere," he told the Globe. "It would make sense for those who are paying the bills — i.e., Gillette — to use some kind of verification program for their third-party contractors."

The immigrants who were cleared to continue to Foxboro complained about poor working conditions.  According to members of the Central Falls advocacy group, some workers said they were paid $5 to $7 an hour and were charged up to $7 a day for transportation. One worker, Guillermo Ramos, said she was freezing and did not own a coat. She was given just one break between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. for "only a few sips" of water before being yelled at to get back to work. 

The issue has been met with an outcry for immigration policy changes. In addition to the subpar working environment, one woman was pregnant and seven workers were minors.

Attorney Roberto Gonzalez of the Gonzalez Law Offices interviewed 40 of the workers from the K’iché  at the Guatemalan Consulate in Providence.

“There were six minors that we were able to document — 14, 16 and 17 years old,” Gonzalez said. “Some of them are here on their own — they’re alone because their parents were deported and they stayed behind. Others are here with cousins and family members.”

James said that the Patriots organization is not at fault. According to James, the organization insisted on a signed contract that called for qualified workers dressed appropriately for the job, payed the temps above minimum wage, and gave the part-time employees morning breaks and an hour lunch, providing food for those who did not bring any.

“This doesn’t involve us,” James said to the Providence Journal. “We’re not involved. If anything, we’re upset at the vendor, and they’ve got to be held responsible. We require all third-party vendors to abide by all state and federal labor laws.”

James added that the Patriots are considering taking precautions to avoid this kind of situation from happening again.

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