Murkowski Presses Defense Department on Case Last Year Involving Illegal Immigrants Working at Elmendorf

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today pressed a senior Defense Department official for details on what the service has done to close a loophole that allowed illegal immigrants to work on Elmendorf Air Force Base last year before the security breach was discovered.

Murkowski questioned Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction Subcommittee.

Last October, acting on a tip from the Ironworkers Local 751 in Anchorage, agents from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered that four of 30 employees of an Air Force construction contractor building hangars at Elmendorf were in the country illegally and that one of the four had a criminal history in California.

"I think we all recognize that our Air Force bases are supposed to be secure areas and yet this was a pretty specific example of not only people not eligible to work here in this country and get into the gate and do the work, but of an employee with a criminal record," Murkowski said.

Murkowski asked whether the contractor had been disciplined and what the Obama Administration was doing to ensure that scarce constructions jobs are going to people legally entitled to work in the United States.

Robyn said she couldn't say for sure whether the contractor was disciplined. "It's hard to believe that they were not because my understanding is this was a contractor from California that went up to Alaska and took workers with him, so it would seem that they were liable" she said.

Robyn also said the four illegal immigrants were arrested through a joint Air Force/ICE effort and that the service was "using this as a learning experience to improve our clearance and approach to security."

Murkowski also asked Robyn about the military's view on encouraging housing privatization partners to use local contractors and local construction workers for privatized housing work at military bases. Murkowski was referring to a situation at Fort Wainwright involving a partnership with Actus Lend Lease to privatize housing at Wainwright. Local contractors have expressed serious concern that Actus was bringing in out of state contractors to displace local contractors.

Robyn said the military strongly supported housing privatization efforts and didn't know if the situation at Wainwright was unique. "It may be. I've been on the job nine months and it may be that I just don't know about it, so I can't give you a good answer," she said. Murkowski asked Robyn to respond in writing to her questions.

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