WHITING, Ind. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 15 illegal aliens here Wednesday who were working as contract janitorial workers at the BP Whiting oil refinery. These arrests are the result of a two-year critical infrastructure worksite enforcement investigation that is continuing.
ICE initiated the investigation after receiving information that illegal aliens were being contracted by an Illinois company to work at the BP refinery, and that they had access to secure areas of the plant. ICE identifies oil refineries as critical infrastructure, which are crucial to our nation's ability to function and are vulnerable to sabotage, attack or exploitation.
"There is a serious public safety concern when illegal aliens, who are not authorized to work in the country legally, are working in secure areas of one of our nation's largest oil refineries," said Gary Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. "While there is no reason to believe that these individuals had ill intent against our country, their illegal status represents a significant vulnerability in our national security. ICE will continue to partner with critical infrastructure facilities and ensure they have a legal workforce."
The illegal workers arrested on administrative immigration charges - 11 females and four males - were all employed by United Building Maintenance (UBM) of Carol Stream, Ill. They performed janitorial duties at the BP refinery. Of those arrested, 14 are illegal aliens from Mexico and one is from Guatemala. All of those taken into ICE custody will be fingerprinted, photographed and placed into deportation proceedings.
All individuals arrested were thoroughly questioned by ICE to determine if they have medical, caregiver, or other humanitarian issues. Based on these interviews, ICE agents determine whether to detain or conditionally release individuals on humanitarian grounds pending their immigration hearings. During the processing, detainees may contact their families to make any arrangements regarding child-care or other caregiver concerns. ICE has contacted local social services organizations to provide any caregiver arrangements that are identified.
ICE does not release the names of individuals arrested on administrative immigration charges. However, as the investigation continues, each case is being carefully reviewed for possible criminal charges by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Indiana. As part of this investigation, ICE arrested two former UBM employees earlier this year after they were discovered working illegally at the BP refinery. Herminia Najera-Flores and Ramon Aviles-Cano, both illegal aliens from Mexico, are currently facing criminal prosecution in the Northern District of Indiana. After they complete their criminal proceedings, they will be turned over to ICE for deportation.
Effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in ICE's mission targeting illegal immigration, and in protecting our homeland. ICE's comprehensive strategy for effective worksite enforcement is aimed at promoting national security, protecting critical infrastructure, and ensuring fair labor standards.
ICE Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) investigations target the threat to national security posed by illegal workers employed in critical infrastructure-related facilities. Unauthorized workers employed at sensitive sites and critical infrastructure facilities - such as airports, seaports, nuclear plants, chemical plants, oil refineries and defense facilities - pose serious security threats to the nation. The goal of CIP investigations is to reduce the vulnerabilities of the nation's critical infrastructure and key assets to future terrorist attacks.
BP Corporate Security has been fully cooperative in the investigation and has provided invaluable assistance to ICE.
Since it was established in 2003, ICE has dramatically enhanced its efforts to combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens in the United States. During fiscal year 2008, ICE made 5,173 administrative immigration arrests at worksites nationally. In addition, 1,101 criminal arrests were made in connection with worksite investigations.