Investigation: Illegal Workers on Elmendorf AFB

Andrea Gusty, KTVA-TV (Anchorage), December 15, 2009

A contractor hired for a major construction project on Elmendorf Air Force Base broke both state and federal law.

At issue: the illegal immigrants that were granted access to the base to help construct the Air Force’s new F-22 hangars.

This summer the Air Force started a multi-million dollar effort to build new F-22 hangars on Elmendorf Air Force Base. The contractor hired for the steel work was Steel System Erectors out of California.

An investigation has reviled the company employed undocumented workers and allowed them access to a national security site.

A “critical infrastructure site essential to national security.” That is how the federal government describes Elmendorf Air Force Base.

At each entrance, security checks the ids and has the right to search the vehicles of all who enter the base. So then, how were illegal immigrants with forged and expired documents granted access?

{snip}

Lewis [Ironworkers Local 751 President/Organizer John Lewis] noticed this summer that Steel System Erectors out of southern California had not hired any local workers. In fact, he found the company flew 30 employees from California to Alaska for the job.

“For you to be able to bid a job and win it with the cost of air fare and housing for that many men raises a huge red flag that something- there’s another area where you are cheating,” says Lewis, “Either your cutting costs on workers comp, or you are misclassifying your workers.”

Lewis would find Steel System Erectors was doing both. {snip}

“It’s extremely disturbing that a contractor is able to, day after day for months on end, take undocumented workers and get them through security,” says Lewis.

While they declined to talk on camera, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did confirm four of Steel System Erectors’ employees on the Elmendorf job did not have proper employment documents, and one of those even had a criminal history in California.

Since the federal investigation at the end of October, all four men have been arrested. One of the workers has been deported, two voluntarily returned to their country, and one will be pleading his case in front of an immigration judge.

{snip}

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