Mayor George Darden
Spring Valley, N.Y., Mayor George Darden won’t be facing state civil or criminal charges for hiring illegal aliens to work on an urban revitalization project in his village, but Department of Labor officials informed him yesterday that the $10 an hour he paid 10 men doesn’t comply with the state’s prevailing wage law and taxpayers will have to pay the illegals the difference of about $30 an hour.
Darden has been under fire this week since the White Plains Journal News reported a village employee from the Department of Public Works Tuesday using a village truck to pick up two day laborers from a popular roadside hiring site and driving them back to Main Street to clean out a building slated for demolition. The village employee said he was “following orders” when he transported the illegal aliens.
Darden now claims to have not known the laborers were illegal and says he was the victim of one of the workers, who, he said, provided what appeared to be legal documentation that would allow him to work in the U.S. and said he had family members interested in working on the project. Darden said the man apparently “picked up a number of other individuals.”
The mayor said he had told the workers he would be sending them IRS Form 1099s so they could declare the wages for tax purposes.
That story does not fit all the facts or match what the mayor said earlier in the week.
The man he dealt with, Felix Sandoval, is in the U.S. illegally from Guatemala. He identified Darden as the person who had approached him at the hiring site Sunday and asked him to bring nine other men to the job site the following two days. Sandoval had a business card from Darden in his possession.
When asked on Tuesday why illegal laborers were on the job site, an urban renewal project that has received federal and state funds, Darden replied, “They’re working.”
“We have 37 different nationalities” in the village, he told the Journal News, “and during the summer, we try to employ everybody.”
“I believe that if you keep people busy … they become better and productive people,” he added. “I’m the mayor of all the people in Spring Valley, not Jamaicans and Haitians and Jews … all the people of Spring Valley, and they’re included, and as long as they are here, we’re going to try to make sure they’re productive.”
While Darden said he knew of the laws concerning hiring illegal aliens, the federal government had failed to do anything to stem the flow of their immigration.
“I am hiring people who are citizens of Spring Valley and as long as they are here, we need to find something to do rather than to try and find ways to arrest them,” he said. “I’m a family person, and I’m sure they have families here, too. Everybody needs to do things to support their families.”
Darden acknowledged paying the men in cash. At a Tuesday news conference, he did not say whether taxes were withheld on their wages.
“To pay $10 an hour,” said Sandoval, was “a lot of work for little money.”
Now, thanks to New York’s prevailing wage law, Sandoval and his fellow illegal aliens will be paid $40 an hour – including taxes – for their work.
Darden won’t face prosecution for violating the state’s wage law, said Chris Perham of the Department of Labor.
“This is a first offense and in such cases we explained the laws,” Perham said. “After that first chance, we will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has referred the matter to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hiring illegal aliens violates federal law.
“We don’t discuss investigative matters,” ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi said. “We do take the hiring of illegal aliens serious and take an aggressive approach against workers, employers and businesses.”
“I made a mistake – one of the head, not the heart,” Darden said yesterday. “I gave them my business card. I wouldn’t have done that if I knew they were illegal.”