Verify: No, undocumented people don't clean the Capitol

Is Colorado's Capitol cleaned by workers here illegally?

DENVER—In the middle of a floor speech Friday morning, Colorado state House Speaker Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) claimed that people in the country illegally clean the state capitol. They don’t.

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THE QUESTION

While debating against a Republican amendment to defund driver's licenses for people in the country illegally  on the house floor Friday, Duran took to the floor to chastise Republican members who’ve used the term “illegal alien” on the floor.

As part of her argument, Duran said (emphasis added by 9NEWS) the following:

“You know a lot of time who’s working behind the scenes in the hotels and the restaurants and who comes here late at night to do the cleanup work in this Capitol, and clean up after all of us? Do you know who those people are? Sometimes they are undocumented individuals.”

This is what we’ll fact check in this story.

WHAT WE FOUND

The claim that people in the country illegally are cleaning the capitol didn’t seem quite right, so we checked with the people who run the state Capitol at the state Department of Personnel and Administration.

DPA oversees the operation, maintenance, and management of state-owned facilities in Colorado.

Their response to us left no wiggle room: Speaker Duran was simply wrong when she said this.

“I can say for sure that all of the staff who work in the Capitol are documented,” said DPA spokesman Adrian Schulte.

Schulte says all DPA employees (including custodial staff) are required to complete a federal I-9 form, which is used to verify that a person applying for a job is legally allowed to work in the country.

We also asked about contractors who do work for the state in the building. Schulte says that no custodial work is currently done by outside contractors in the Capitol, and even if they did, “all contractors for our managed buildings are required by contract to check I-9 forms.”

It is possible for a person who entered the country illegally to have obtained legal authorization to work. The Obama administrations DACA program, which allows people brought into the US illegally as children to defer deportation, also enables recipients to obtain a 3-year work permit. But having a work permit, by definition, makes such a person documented—not undocumented.

9NEWS told the speaker’s office what we found. Duran replied by telling 9NEWS, “my statement was meant to be figurative, not literal.”

“I did not mean to say that state capitol employees may be undocumented; our state Department of Personnel and Administration maintains strict hiring practices,” Duran said.

The speaker says her intent was to point out that people in the country illegally “live and work amongst us and are a meaningful part of our society and economy.”

The rest of her claim about where people without legal status work holds up better under scrutiny.

The Pew Research Center reports a third of unauthorized immigrant workers are employed in the service industry.

BOTTOM LINE

Speaker Duran messed up when she said "undocumented individuals" clean the state Capitol.

Regardless of the argument she wanted to make, she stated a falsehood as fact to try to make it and now says she didn’t mean to do so.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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