Lorenzo Harris makes a living sweeping away the dirt. But he certainly is not swept away by the state of our nation’s current immigration system.
As the CEO and principal of Janico Building Services, a full-service building maintenance and cleaning contractor with 40 employees in Sacramento, Harris understands first-hand how undocumented immigrants affect the cleaning industry, particularly when it comes to the hiring process.
“The hiring of undocumented workers has become widespread in our industry,” he said, noting that many are often paid “under the table” and less than minimum wage in order for the company “to gain an unfair competitive advantage.”
Witnessing the mistreatment of many immigrant workers in his line of business has inspired Harris to rectify these misdeeds at his own company. Janico Building Services employs workers who are immigrants from all over the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia and Asia, and pays all of its workers fair wages.
“[They] are often the hardest working and most loyal employees, many with family members who can’t get decent jobs,” he said. “College admission becomes problematic too because of their immigration status.”
Harris notes that American born citizens are much less likely to pursue employment in cleaning industry jobs, which enables many cleaning service companies to target undocumented workers for employment they desperately look for, and pay them meager wages. This creates an unfair playing field that hurts other small employers like Harris who play by the rules and pay their workers fairly.
Because his industry attracts many undocumented workers, Harris understands from a small business perspective the need for immigration reform that allows these workers better access to jobs and a path toward citizenship.
In fact, Harris is not alone in these sentiments. A scientific opinion poll conducted by Small Business Majority found that a vast three-quarters of small business owners believe creating a path toward legal citizenship for undocumented workers should be part of our country’s immigration reform. The poll also found that 64% of small business owners think it’s important to allow more low skilled foreign workers, who might work in industries like cleaning services, into this country legally.
“Hopefully, immigration reform will address many of these issues,” Harris said, echoing the beliefs of 90% of business owners who agree that our current system is broken.