Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, chief executive and owner of the Penna Group, a contracting firm based out of Fort Worth, TX claims that he began receiving death threats after submitting a bid to secure a contract to build Trump’s border wall. Ysasaga is one of many Latino contractors that has been threatened, assaulted or shamed for their attempt to secure the lucrative contract.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘You’re Latino. How can you build a wall to keep other Latinos out?’ We had to do a lot of soul-searching before we jumped into this because it’s obviously a very, very controversial topic,” Ysasaga said.
Al Anderson, general manager of KWR Construction, another Hispanic-owned firm based in Sierra Vista, AZ says that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to business and doing what’s best for his company and his employees.
“We want whatever jobs here along the border that we can get, and set aside our personal beliefs to support our employees.” Anderson told the Washington Post.
This won’t be the first time KWR Construction has helped strengthen the nation’s border. The company helped build the current border fence as well as related roads and lighting. He said that Mexicans on the other side of the border would often harass or attempt to assault his workers. Rocks were regularly thrown at workers as they were working on lighting fixtures. He says that one employee started wearing a bulletproof vest to work as a precaution.
“It was a rough environment, and I expect it to be more charged now than it has been in the history of working along the border,” he said. “Not only are Mexicans infuriated with the United States, but people in the United States are also infuriated.”
Anderson believes that accepting the project will cause many of his workers to quit, regardless of race or political affiliation.
“We’ll have people who are conscientious objectors against this particular project,” he said. “They live in a small community, and they don’t want to get threatening calls in the middle of the night.”
The final cost of the wall is expected to cost nearly twice as much as the Trump administration’s original estimates of $12 billion and will take approximately 3.5 years to complete. For many hispanic-owned contracting firms the deal is too lucrative to pass up, even those that oppose the idea of the wall have submitted bids.
Patrick Balcazar, owner of a Puerto Rico-based firm, said he feels that the billions of dollars the border wall would cost would be better spent on other priorities, but that hasn’t stopped him from submitting a bid for the project.
“Work is work,” Balcazar said. “I’m not a big fan of how Lady Gaga dresses but if I’m a tailor and she wants me to make her a dress, I will make a dress and I will tell her it looks good on her.”