07/07/05 — 49 illegals caught at Seymour Johnson

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49 illegals caught at Seymour Johnson

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on July 7, 2005 1:45 PM

Forty-nine undocumented workers apprehended at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base were scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court today.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base security and local and federal officials detained the workers at the base Wednesday.

The workers were laborers, such as carpenters, said Sue Brown, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta.

They had no access to military files, base spokesman Capt. Allen Herritage said.

The workers were hired under local contracting agreements to provide construction services, base officials said.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations worked with officials from the Members of the 4th Security Squadron, Defense Criminal Investigation Service, Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Social Security Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the Goldsboro Police Department to detain the workers.

An investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office is currently under way.

"These were not direct hires from the base," said Capt. Tana Stevenson of Seymour Johnson Public Affairs.

Frank Whitney, the U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina, said late Wednesday that a hearing was scheduled this morning in federal court in Raleigh before U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle.

Whitney said the defendants faced deportation if they were in the country illegally.

He also said the arrests were part of a federal focus on illegal aliens at facilities such as military bases, nuclear power plants or airports that had national security importance.

"It's not so much that these individuals are terrorists, but that these individuals are subject to blackmail because of their illegal status" and could be used by terrorists for access and illegal activities, Whitney said.

Authorities detained the workers early Wednesday "after becoming aware that contract workers had entered the base under false pretenses," Herritage said. The workers, who provided counterfeit identity documents, were from Mexico, Ukraine, Honduras and El Salvador, said Dean Boyd, an ICE spokesman in Washington, D.C.

The fake documents included Social Security cards, Brown said.

Mrs. Stevenson said the workers were contracted for various projects around the base, and not designated for one particular site.

At least 16 of the workers were subcontracted under Parsons, a general contractor based in Pasadena, Calif.

The undocumented workers were employed by five subcontractors working on a housing project for Parsons. Those subcontractors included Dry Tech Drywall of Jacksonville and Best Sand and Gravel of Goldsboro.

Calls to both companies for comments on the apprehensions were unanswered.