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Phantom Blooper
08-19-05, 05:53 AM
August 19,2005

CHRIS MAZZOLINI

DAILY NEWS STAFF

Nearly 40 undocumented workers were detained this week at Camp Lejeune, prompting an investigation by federal immigration officials, a base spokesman said Thursday.

Camp Lejeune officials detained 27 people at base gates during security checks Wednesday and another 12 at various construction sites Monday, said 1st Lt. Clark Carpenter. The initial investigation was triggered by an anonymous tip to Lejeune's command inspectors office, Carpenter said.

Military investigators went to the site of the new primary school on Stone Street at 10:30 a.m. Monday and apprehended five undocumented workers, Carpenter said. Further checks at other construction sites that same day found an additional seven. As a result, Carpenter said, the base stepped up inspections at a number of gates Wednesday.

The investigation is now being handled by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Wilmington, Carpenter said. Contractors are required to follow any federal, state and municipal laws, codes and regulations applicable to work performance - labor and immigration laws included, he noted.

"We're currently evaluating the facts and circumstances of this incident," Carpenter said. "There is a continuing investigation ?, and, until we learn more, we cannot comment on (its) progress."

Details on where the workers are from, how they got on base and what will happen to them now were not immediately made available.

Sue Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security office in Atlanta, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not commenting now because the investigation is ongoing. Further details should be made available once the investigation is complete, she said.

Carpenter declined to mention any contractors by name, saying only that investigators were "looking into the practices of several contractors right now." Work on base projects will continue, he added.

Defense contracts represent a lucrative business for the private sector. In fiscal year 2004, the government awarded $100 million worth of contracts for construction, environmental remediation, architectural and engineering designs and facilities support at Camp Lejeune, Carpenter said. Included in that total is $83 million for 206 new contracts to repair existing facilities or construct new ones.

According to the Defense Department, Tyler, Texas-based C Construction Co., Inc., was awarded $23.6 million last year to perform construction and demolition of the mainside primary and mainside intermediate schools at Camp Lejeune, including the new Carla Johnson Primary School on Stone Street.

According to previously published Daily News reports, C Construction began work on the school in March. It was scheduled to be complete by the start of the school year next week.

Reached at the company's headquarters in Texas, C Construction President Bryan Rossman declined to provide any information.

"We're not allowed to speak to anyone about employment issues," he said.

Rossman referred the matter to the company's vice president, Tommy Hayes, at its regional office in Jacksonville. Additional questions, he said, should be directed to military officials.

"My suggestion is you talk to the Marine Corps," Rossman said.

Hayes, too, declined to comment.

"I can't comment on it, basically, because I don't know," Hayes said.

This marks the second time this year that undocumented workers have been apprehended on a North Carolina military installation. In July, 49 people were arrested at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.

Carpenter said Camp Lejeune takes security very seriously.

"We conduct inspections at our entry points based on a number of criteria, but essentially it's to identify illegal items, substances or people that might be trying to enter this base," he said.


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 229.

Phantom Blooper
08-20-05, 07:15 AM
Access to base unclear

August 20,2005

CHRIS MAZZOLINI

DAILY NEWS STAFF

While 39 undocumented workers were caught aboard Camp Lejeune and during gate security checks this week, the question remains: How, in this post-9/11 era, did those who aren't authorized to be in this country get inside a military installation?

Camp Lejeune is not the first military base to have undocumented workers aboard. In July, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro rounded up 49 undocumented workers hired by regional contracting firms after they determined a number of the workers were employed under false pretenses.

And like Seymour Johnson, Camp Lejeune responded by stepping up security, catching 27 of the 39 workers before they got past the gate Wednesday.

"Through the various programs and systems that we have in place, we were able to identify these workers," said 1st Lt. Clark Carpenter, a spokesman for Camp Lejeune, adding that there is no reason for safety concerns at this point in the investigation.

The incident is currently being investigated by the base and the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Wilmington.

"When we find out more information as the course of the investigation continues, then we will be better able to determine what actions, if any, we might have to take," Carpenter said. "In today's environment, there are ever-changing security concerns. So we're always looking for ways to improve our force-protection measures.

"Anytime somebody gets on base that doesn't belong, we take it very seriously. But we're always looking for ways to improve our security posture and make this installation safer."

Base officials were alerted to the undocumented workers Monday by an anonymous tip. They apprehended 12 that day, including five from the site of the new Carla Johnson Primary School on Stone Street.

C Construction Co., based in Tyler, Texas, was awarded the contract by the Defense Department in January 2004 for the construction of two new schools aboard Camp Lejeune, including the Stone Street school.

Officials with the company, both at their Texas headquarters and at their regional Jacksonville office, have said they can't comment on the matter because it's an employment issue. They have referred all questions to the Marine Corps.


The contractor process


Military installations across the country all deal with the constant task of securing their boundaries. The ebb and flow of civilian contractors is just a part of the task.

Information on how Camp Lejeune and a number of other bases - including Camp Pendleton, Calif., Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in Fayetteville - approve base access to contractors was not available at press time. But a number of other defense installations were able to discuss the process that contractors must follow to obtain access to their individual bases.

Seymour Johnson, for example, adheres to all Air Combat Command and Air Force guidance regarding base entry procedures, a base spokesman said.

"Contractors are required to have a valid government-issued photo identification card and submit to a criminal background check," Capt. Allen Herritage said in a base public affairs article supplied to The Daily News. "Additionally, contract workers must be sponsored onto the installation by an approved agent of the contractor.

"The approved agent is also required to maintain physical proximity with the workers while on the installation."

News reports have stated that investigating agents believe the undocumented workers in the Seymour Johnson case eluded security by using counterfeit documents.

In a written statement about its security policy provided to The Daily News, Cherry Point Air Station public affairs said the base "has an effective set of security procedures in place which includes screening contract workers who come aboard the installation and establishing security-related contractual terms with companies providing services."

Patricia Vasquez, the manager of the pass office at the Navy base in Norfolk, Va., said all contract workers have criminal background checks before they can get on base. If anything in the background check doesn't pan out, that information is given to the proper authorities, Vasquez said.

"If we run all their paperwork, all their documentation and if there appears to be anything wrong with it, that information is turned over to (the Naval Criminal Investigative Service)," she said.

The workers also receive an escort if they are working in a classified area, Vasquez said, and are overseen by the individual site manager if not.


Changing concerns


Defense contracts are both lucrative sources of work for private industry and a way for the military to provide essential services to the troops. According to a 2004 East Carolina University study on the economic impact of the military in North Carolina, the state has received more than $1.43 billion in Department of Defense contracts.

In fiscal year 2004, the government awarded $100 million in contracts for construction, environmental remediation, architectural and engineering designs and facilities support at Camp Lejeune.

"There are contractors that do tremendous amounts of work on this base, from constructing buildings to serving our Marines in the chow hall," Carpenter said.

But contractors must still follow the rules.

"The simple fact is the contractor must uphold the regulations of this base, the laws of this state and the laws of this country," Carpenter said.


Contact staff writer Chris Mazzolini at cmazzolini@freedomenc.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 229.