Federal agents found illegal workers hiding at a big federal construction project in Orlando.
U.S. immigration agents, returning Feb. 9 to a site they had previously visited earlier the same day, discovered six illegal workers hiding in the ceiling of the Orlando Veterans Administration Medical Center, which is under construction.
The agents, part of the Dept. of Homeland Security, and the Orlando Police Department received an anonymous tip that “illegal immigrants were stuck in a storage container somewhere on the construction site.” The caller indicated the hidden subjects were in a poorly ventilated spot with no access to food or water, according to the Orlando police report.
After several hours of searching the 64-acre site, Salvador Hernandez, a worker who helped hide the illegal workers, led the investigative team to the six individuals hiding in the ceiling of the new hospital. The Orlando Police indicate the space was 30-ft long by 10-ft wide by 18-inches deep. A forklift was required to move scaffolding and locate the hidden subjects, who could not have escaped without the assistance of a forklift, according to the police report.
Three additional workers were taken into custody on administrative charges. All nine were identified as illegal aliens from Mexico and taken to the Orange County jail, where they will be processed for removal from the country, according to a spokeswoman for the immigration and customs agency.
The immigration agents had been at the site an hour earlier with state insurance department investigators,as part of “an ongoing investigation by multiple agencies into employment practices of several contractors.”
The main contractor on the $665-million project, Brasfield and Gorrie, holds separate contracts covering the main structure, two garages and a warehouse and the foundations and concrete.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s public relations agency issued a written statement acknowledging that the “authorities identified individuals who are suspected to have used deficient documentation to secure their employment. We are working with the agencies to assist with the investigation. Brasfield & Gorrie has always been and continues to be fully committed to complying with federal, state and local laws.”
The public relations agency said that Brasfield & Gorrie used the federal E-verify system, in addition to the I-9 Employment Verification process to confirm work eligibility of all its workers on this site. “In addition, we also require that all contractors and subcontractors do the same for their employees as well.”
The public relations agency would not provide additional information or confirm or deny that the men identified by the anonymous caller to the police as being involved in hiding the men—Hernandez of Winter Garden, Fla., and manager Carey Duell of Webster, Fla.—work for Brasfield & Gorrie. The police report contains social security numbers for both men. Duell, reached by telephone, would not identify his employer.