Immigration Officials Arrest 27 Workers at Greensboro Airport

March 8, 2005
Federal officials arrested 27 workers at the Piedmont/Triad International Airport for using counterfeit documents.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Federal officials on Tuesday arrested 27 workers at the Piedmont/Triad International Airport for using counterfeit documents, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

The suspects, whose home countries include Sudan, Chile, Peru, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, Venezuela, Mexico and Laos, worked for contract labor companies who supply workers to TIMCO, a company that performs maintenance on passenger and cargo aircraft.

Federal officials said in a release that TIMCO was not a target and is fully cooperating in the ongoing investigation, dubbed ''Operation Fly By.''

An airport spokeswoman referred calls to the U.S. attorney's office, where no one was immediately available for comment Tuesday.

The 27 arrested were charged with administrative violations of immigration law and will be placed in deportation proceedings, the release said.

Federal officials said they have no reason to believe any of the individuals arrested were involved in or planning any terrorist activity.

''As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, the United States cannot risk having 'unknown' people working in or near its critical infrastructure,'' ICE agent-in-charge Thomas O'Connell said in a news release.

The investigation is part of ICE's Operation Tarmac, an ongoing initiative that targets employers and unauthorized workers who have access to sensitive areas at airports.

ICE agents have conducted investigations at 196 airports nationwide and audited more than 5,800 businesses as part of this operation, the agency said. They've identified more than 5,800 unauthorized airport workers, arrested more than 1,000 unauthorized alien workers, and obtained 775 criminal indictments, according to the agency.