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Agents Arrest 14 Workers at Fencing Firm

The immigrants were employed by a company that has access to a U.S. naval base in San Diego.

September 22, 2004|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

Federal agents targeting potential national security breaches arrested 14 illegal immigrants Tuesday who had been working for a San Diego company that constructs fencing at a U.S. Navy base.

None of the immigrants, 13 Mexicans and one Guatemalan, worked at the base; they apparently were used on other projects for Golden State Fence Co.

But because the company has access to North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, its employment rolls came under review as part of Operation Safe Cities -- a nationwide enforcement effort aimed at preventing unauthorized people from working at sites sensitive to national security.

"Obviously [the base] is a critical infrastructure. There are nuclear ships out there," said Michael Unzueta, acting special agent in charge of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "It's a vulnerability and we want to know if people on the base are who they say they are."

Authorities are searching for an additional 30 immigrants who worked for the company.

The arrests were the result of a four-month investigation by ICE and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The immigrants used fraudulent Social Security numbers and counterfeit visa documents to get the jobs, authorities said. Four of the immigrants had criminal records, including convictions for narcotics-related offenses and battery against a police officer.

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