INS Agents Raid Redskins Stadium Site, Take 19 Alleged Illegal Workers

By Wendy Melillo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 30 1997; Page C06

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Federal agents raided the construction site of the new Washington Redskins stadium early yesterday and arrested 19 workers suspected of being in the country illegally.

The arrests were part of a larger effort to target construction sites in the metropolitan area where federal officials say some jobs are occupied by illegal workers.

"In this area, construction sites are considered one of our most troublesome areas of enforcement and one of our top priorities for 1997," said Benedict J. Ferro, district director for the Baltimore office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The arrests prompted a Maryland official to review hiring practices at the football stadium for the Baltimore Ravens under construction at Camden Yards.

"We don't think we have any illegal aliens, and since we heard about this, we are taking a hard look [at hiring practices] because we do not accept illegal aliens on our project," said Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Officials at the MCI Center, under construction in the District, said they were confident that the Clark Construction Group, the general contractor for both the Redskins stadium and the MCI Center, would quickly resolve the situation.

Redskins officials said they were troubled to learn that federal agents did not have a search warrant when they entered the Landover construction site, acquired last year by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. And Clark officials said they were unable to find any Clark workers who gave agents permission to conduct a search.

"My question is, how did they get on the site without a search warrant?" said Gerard E. Evans, Cooke's chief lobbyist. "If they got permission, that obviates the need for the search warrant. If they did not, which exception did they use to get on the site?"

A team of 15 agents went to the construction site about 6:30 a.m., just as workers were arriving for the morning shift. Ferro said the agents entered the property off Brightseat Road, went to the parking lot near the stadium and asked permission of four men in a Clark trailer to check workers.

"We received an enthusiastic invitation to proceed," Ferro said.

Andrea White, a Clark spokesman, said Clark officials had not identified any employees who gave permission to talk to the workers.

"It is very disruptive when this happens," White said. "The workers are doing hard work, and they don't like to carry their papers on them. When INS shows up, the workers run to their cars to get their papers and that adds up to a lot of time lost."

It was unclear yesterday if the workers arrested were employed by Clark or one of its 40 subcontractors. About 600 workers are employed at the site. Clark could be fined up to $2,000 a worker if federal agents determine they knowingly hired illegal workers.

"We have consistently worked to ensure that our employees provide appropriate documentation, and we have not knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment," said Louise E. Pulizzi, a Clark spokeswoman.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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