- The Washington Times - Friday, April 29, 2005

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested 66 illegal aliens working on the construction of a federal courthouse in Orlando, Fla., after an ICE investigation that began with a lead provided by Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican.

The aliens were employed by contractors and subcontractors and, according to ICE spokesman Dean Boyd, were assigned to help build the home of the U.S. District Court in Orlando. The courthouse will be the central location where the government will present and litigate criminal and civil cases.

It also will house federal judges, the U.S. Marshals Service and administrative staff.

“The arrests are a reflection of the federal government’s continued commitment to safeguarding our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Raymond M. Connolly, ICE’s acting special agent-in-charge in Tampa, Fla. “Thanks to Congressman Mica’s information, we were able to neutralize a potential vulnerability in our community.”

The ICE investigation, which culminated in the arrests on Wednesday, revealed that the illegal workers used fraudulent Social Security numbers and other counterfeit documents to obtain employment by various subcontractors working for Hensel and Phelps Construction Co.

“Our laws must be enforced,” Mr. Mica said. “I am pleased that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and local law-enforcement agents are appropriately taking action to crack down on the problem of illegal immigration, particularly where important federal projects are under construction.”

Mr. Boyd said those arrested were from Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua. All are in ICE custody awaiting the outcome of their cases.

The investigation is continuing, he said, and the arrests were made with the assistance of the Orlando Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, ICE’s Detention and Removal Office and ICE’s Federal Protective Service.

In accordance with ICE’s homeland security mission, Mr., Boyd said agents prioritize work-site enforcement efforts by focusing on investigations related to critical infrastructure, national security and employers who engage in egregious criminal violations.

He said unauthorized workers employed in sensitive security sites and critical infrastructure facilities — such as airports, nuclear power and chemical plants and defense contractors — are vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists, smugglers, traffickers or other criminals.

Mr. Boyd said an employer who knowingly hires unauthorized workers can be criminally prosecuted or face administrative fines of up to $11,000 per person

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