Local News

49 Undocumented Workers Detained At Seymour Johnson

Posted July 7, 2005 5:47 a.m. EDT

— Dozens of illegal immigrants who were caught working at one of North Carolina's military bases are behind bars.

Forty-nine undocumented workers were arrested at Seymour Johnston Air Force Base Wednesday morning. WRAL has learned they were working on the base when it was discovered that they did not have the proper paperwork. Agents believe the men were able to elude base security using counterfeit documentation, such as Social Security cards green cards and driver's licenses.

The investigation, which started about two months ago with a complaint about the type of paperwork the men were using to get on the base, was conducted with the cooperation of the Defense Criminal Investigation Service, Bureau of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Social Security Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, Goldsboro Police Department and 4th Security Forces Squadron.

WRAL has learned that some of the workers were employed by subcontractors to Parsons Evergreene, LLC, based in Salt Lake City. The company, which has contracts at 19 Air Force bases, building homes, infrastructure and security systems, told WRAL that only 16 of the workers are connected to them through five different subcontractors. Parsons Evergreene said none of them was a direct employee.

Investigators said they are looking into the responsibility of the subcontractors.

Federal immigration agents brought the group to an immigration office in Cary. They are scheduled to appear Thursday morning in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The workers were hired under local contracting agreements to provide construction services on projects, which included a fire station near a main runway.

Because the illegal immigrants were working on a military base, investigators said the situation poses serious security questions. Investigators said none of the men pose a terrorism threat, but they say that it is very likely that undocumented workers are able to get on other military bases and this is why they are focusing on this operation.

Investigators said the case at Seymour Johnson is the largest arrest of its kind at a military base in North Carolina, but they said they do not believe it is an isolated case and that it is probably a problem at other bases across the state.

Wednesday's arrests were not the first time a local group of illegal immigrants have been arrested in North Carolina this year. In March, 11 illegal immigrants were removed from a plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The men allegedly used driver's licenses or Mexican voter registration cards to board a flight in Chicago. The men were eventually deported.


Kelly Gardner