Aide: Romney Unaware of Illegal Workers

The Associated Press
Friday, December 1, 2006; 2:58 PM

BOSTON -- A top aide to Gov. Mitt Romney said Friday the 2008 White House hopeful was unaware that several of the workers employed by a lawn care company hired to take care of the grounds at his suburban home were illegal immigrants.

The Boston Globe said it interviewed in Spanish four current and former employees of Community Lawn Service with a Heart who worked on Romney's property. All but one said they were in the United States illegally.

The disclosure comes at a time when Romney is actively considering a run for president and when immigration is a top issue nationally. Eric Fehrnstrom, the Massachusetts governor's communications director, said Friday that Romney was not aware of or "knowledgeable about the information alleged."

"Governor Romney hired a legitimate Massachusetts lawn service company to take care of his yard. He knows the owner as a decent, hardworking person who is a legal resident," Fehrnstrom said.

The workers told the newspaper the company's owner, Ricardo Saenz, never asked them to show documents on their immigration status, which is required by federal law.

Saenz "never asked for papers,' said Rene Alvarez Rosales, 49. Rosales told the Globe in an interview in Suchitepequez, Guatemala, that he worked on and off for about eight years landscaping Romney's two-and-a-half acre property in suburban Belmont. Rosales said he had paid smugglers $5,000 to bring him across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The others were not named by the Globe.

Saenz, a legal immigrant from Colombia, said Romney has used his company's services for a decade and never asked him if his workers were legally in the country.

"He doesn't have to ask," Saenz said. "I'm a company." Saenz said all the workers he used were legal, but he never asked them for proof.

Romney has been critical of illegal immigration and supported building of a new 700-mile fence along the U.S. border with Mexico and stationing National Guard troops along the border.

He has said employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should face penalties.

© 2006 The Associated Press