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GOP candidate Larsen admits in audio to hiring 'illegals', now calls for immigration reform

The Republican candidate supports stricter border control, lamenting the amount of fentanyl coming in from Mexico.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
Election 2024ElectionsImmigration

In an audio recording obtained by The Nevada Independent, Republican congressional candidate Flemming Larsen said he employs undocumented immigrants at his California restaurants, referring to his employees as “illegals.”

Larsen, who is running in the Congressional District 1 Republican primary to take on Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), owns several restaurants in Southern California. In audio of a conversation from a “Coffee with the Candidate” event in February obtained by The Indy, he lamented the amount of fentanyl coming over the U.S.-Mexico border and said that crossing points should be closed. 

But he also acknowledged the importance of immigrant workers in the U.S. economy.

“There’s not a single person in this race that understands how important migrant workers are to our country,” Larsen said in the recording. “We need them here, and we need them here legally though.”

When asked if he employed migrant workers, Larsen said he employs “a lot of illegals,” a term that immigration advocates have long argued is dehumanizing and incorrect, considering that entering the country without documentation is not a crime.

Larsen went on to say that if he were to ask prospective hires about their immigration status in California, the American Civil Liberties Union would sue him. 

In California, the state’s civil rights department protects undocumented immigrants from being asked about their immigration status by a prospective employer unless compelled to do so by federal immigration law. Once hired, however, wage theft is a prominent issue for immigrant workers in the restaurant industry in particular, where fear of deportation often keeps workers from speaking up and allows employers to exploit their status to withhold benefits or pay.

In a Friday phone interview, Larsen said he assumed some of the people he hired over a decade ago were undocumented immigrants because they had brand new driver’s licenses and Social Security cards and did not speak English. 

Larsen expressed openness to significant immigration reform in Congress that would allow more migrants to enter the country legally and work. He proposed a “red card” system, in which migrants arriving at the border could receive a background check within three days. If they pass, they could receive an 18-month work permit. Provided they pay taxes and commit no crimes in that period, they would be eligible to renew the permit indefinitely until they could apply for legal residency. 

“We have to come up with a system to allow these migrant workers that want to come here and work, to come here and get vetted quickly,” Larsen said.

He noted that his parents were migrant workers who came to the U.S. from Denmark, and that his experience in the restaurant industry made him sympathetic to the backlog and expense that migrants experience. But he also added that such a system would only be possible once the border is more secure.

Larsen is one of five Republican candidates running in the district’s June 11 Republican primary. Of those, he is by far the best-funded, because he has loaned significant sums of his own money to his campaign. He finished the first fundraising quarter with more than $1.5 million in cash on hand.

Congressional District 1, where Larsen is running, has a significant immigrant population. It includes areas such as East Las Vegas, which has a heavy Hispanic immigrant population, and Census data shows that over 22 percent of the district’s residents were born outside of the U.S.  


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