- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have arrested 22 Mexican nationals employed by a California pipeline company that provides, among other things, contract services to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Oceanside, Calif.

ICE spokeswoman Nadia Koroma said the immigration status of the Burtech Pipeline employees makes it illegal for them to work in the United States. The workers, arrested Wednesday at their homes, were identified after ICE agents reviewed the hiring records of more than 180 Burtech employees.

Ms. Koroma said that while none of the employees has been identified as having worked on the Camp Pendleton site, two have prior narcotics convictions, including one legal permanent resident, or green card holder, whose criminal record renders him deportable.

Burtech Pipeline cooperated fully with the investigation, which is part of ICE’s effort to target illegal workers with access to critical infrastructure worksites across the country, such as U.S. military installations, nuclear plants, airports and seaports, she said.

“Protecting the integrity of military facilities and other critical infrastructure sites is a crucial component of our interior immigration enforcement strategy,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE. “Those who use fraud or false documents to gain employment mask not only their true identities, but also their motives.”

According to Ms. Koroma, the majority of the company’s unauthorized workers used fraudulent Social Security and alien registration numbers to complete the forms required to obtain their jobs. While there is no evidence that any of the employees had terrorist ties, she said unauthorized workers with access to security sensitive sites are potentially vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists, smugglers, traffickers or other criminals.

The arrests were part of an ongoing worksite joint investigation involving ICE and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in conjunction with Operation Safe Cities, a local ICE initiative implemented after the September 11 attacks to protect sensitive businesses from possible security breaches.

Since 2003, ICE agents have audited nearly 900 companies throughout San Diego County, Calif., with a link to national security. Nearly 30 percent of those companies were found to have illegal workers on their payrolls. More than half of the unauthorized workers identified during these investigations have been removed from the United States.

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