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The Grand America Hotel will oust workers who couldn't provide legal documentation to work in the United States in order to comply with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security audit that began in October, hotel officials said Wednesday.
Officials at Salt Lake City's only five diamond hotel would not comment on how many workers would lose their jobs effective Wednesday, but Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said he's been following the case and speculated it could be upward of 120 people. Hotel officials would not confirm a number.
"There are a lot affected by this," Yapias said. "What we're seeing with this is the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We have a lot of people who have these jobs and at the same time, I don't hear the anti-immigrant movement standing outside lining up for the supposed jobs the immigrants are taking away from them."
Bruce Fery, president of The Grand America Hotel, released a statement confirming DHS instructions to not keep anyone employed who was unable to prove a legal right to work in the United States.
He said since the hotel began hiring people in 2001, the hotel "has always followed federal hiring regulations." Fery also said that, since 2006, the hotel began verifying all applicant Social Security numbers with the Social Security Administration "a step that was not required by the federal government or the state of Utah."
Lori Haley, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, released a statement saying her agency has a responsibility to curb businesses' appetite for undocumented immigrant labor but wouldn't confirm the agency did an audit.
"Responsible employers who seek to conduct their business lawfully are put at an unfair disadvantage as they try to compete with unscrupulous businesses," Haley said in the statement. "Such businesses gain a competitive edge by paying illegal alien workers low wages or otherwise exploiting them. These inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws."
Haley said ICE only "confirms that an employer has been audited when the review results in ICE taking a public enforcement action, such as filing criminal charges or issuing a civil fine."
The 775-room luxury hotel owned by Earl Holding opened in March 2001 as lodging for dignitaries visiting Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is the flagship hotel for properties that include The Little America Hotels and The Westgate Hotel in San Diego. The company also owns Sun Valley Resort, Snowbasin and the Sinclair Oil Corp.
State Workforce Service records indicate the hotel has a workforce of between 599 and 1,000 people. A spokeswoman declined to say how many employees worked at the hotel.