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Border Patrol arrests eight illegal aliens at energy plant

By Megan Boldt
The Associated Press, June 14, 2002

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- The area Border Patrol chief says the arrest of eight illegal aliens who were contract workers at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant raises "red flags" about security.

Border Patrol chief Glen Schroeder said the workers, all from Argentina, were using false documents for identification. They were working as welders and pipefitters for TIC, a Casper, Wyo., company that does repair work at the Synfuels plant. "The local police were suspicious of the group," Schroeder said Thursday. "They got a call that somebody in town was using a Social Security card for identity purposes. It turned out the I.D. number showed the people that owned them (Social Security numbers) were long dead."

None of the eight has criminal backgrounds, Schroeder said. But it disturbed him that eight people on tourist visas were able to start working at an energy plant.

"It definitely raised red flags," Schroeder said. "It's pretty obvious that we do have some problems with national security."

The synfuels plant, which employs about 700 people, uses lignite coal to make natural gas.

Schroeder is the Border Patrol chief in Grand Forks, for a district that covers more than 900 miles along the northern border.

Zac Smith, spokesman for TIC, said the Wyoming company requires its employees to provide documentation every time they go out on a new job.

"We follow the standards mandated by the federal government," Smith said. "We solicit documentation from any person who wants to work here. We really operate no differently than any other company."

Basin Electric spokesman Floyd Robb said Basin, which owns the synfuels plant, is doing an investigation to see whether TIC will be used again for contract work.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened here," Robb said. "But I think TIC, and most other employers, look pretty closely at employee documents. They probably had pretty good false documents."

Schroeder said his office will send a report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Wyoming. That office will investigate TIC from there, he said.

The eight were arrested Tuesday at a hotel in Beulah and were being taken to Minneapolis to await deportation, Schroeder said.