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16 Arrested in Illegal Hiring Case

December 01, 2005|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Federal agents arrested 16 suspected illegal migrants working for a military subcontractor Wednesday as part of an ongoing national effort to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive military and infrastructure sites.

It was the third time in six years that Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau agents had taken action against Golden State Fencing Co., which provides fencing for several military bases, including Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and the North Island Naval Air Station.

Authorities have yet to decide whether to file criminal charges against the company. Mike McLaughlin, general manager, denied hiring illegal immigrants for the $35-per-hour jobs. "I don't hire illegal migrants. I have no use for it," he said.

The arrests were part of Operation Safe Cities, a 2-year-old effort in San Diego and Imperial counties to prevent security breaches at sensitive work sites such as military facilities, nuclear power plants and airports. That effort has led to the arrests of more than 350 suspected illegal migrants, officials said.

Golden State Fencing, after audits, has been warned twice since 1999 about questionable hiring practices, authorities said. Ten of the 16 workers arrested Wednesday had been identified as illegal in previous audits, authorities said.

"We're talking about a pattern here going back a number of years of hiring people that have no legal status," said Frank Marwood, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge in San Diego.

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