Federal immigration authorities have charged a contractor with employing an illegal alien to lay track for the Baltimore
area's light-rail line and with failing to verify workers' identities.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is seeking $22,100 in fines from Metroplex Corp., a firm incorporated in Dover, Del., with offices in Washington, D.C., and other locations.
The charge stems from the June 20 arrest of four Mexican nationals at the light rail construction site near Bellona and Joppa roads in Ruxton, said Thomas E. Perryman, a supervisory special agent at the INS office in Baltimore.
"These people were not exactly making peanuts," he said. The men, who are in their 20s, allegedly were earning $11 to $12 per hour.
After an investigation, the INS cited Metroplex for employing one of the illegal aliens and for numerous violations of a law that requires companies to verify the identities and employment eligibilities of their workers, Perryman said.
Metroplex, a specialized construction firm, can pay the fine or challenge the charge before an administrative law judge, he said.
The Metroplex president at the Washington office could not be reached yesterday.
One illegal alien had phony residency and Social Security cards that had been purchased for about $70 in Chicago, Perryman said. Two of the Mexicans had no identification, and one had an expired INS card.
Immigration authorities did not cite Metroplex for employing three of the four Mexicans because it did not have evidence that the company knew the men were not authorized to work in the United States, Perryman said.
The main section of the trolley line, paid for primarily by the state, runs 22.5 miles from Timonium through Baltimore and south to Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. The state plans to open most of the main line next spring.
State transportation officials also expect to build light rail extensions to Hunt Valley, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Pennsylvania Station once they obtain federal funds.
Metroplex provided labor to a track subcontractor on the project, said Gary Gribble, a project engineer with Dick Enterprises Inc., the primary contractor building the Baltimore County segment of light rail.
The state Mass Transit Administration oversees construction of the light-rail system but usually would not know the status of workers hired by subcontractors, said MTA spokeswoman Jacqueline Brown Moore.
She said contractors and subcontractors are responsible for following the law. "We don't manage the company. We manage the project."
Metroplex has finished its work on the light rail line, she said.
The illegal aliens are out on bond awaiting deportation hearings, said Perryman, who declined to provide their names.
Perryman also would not say how immigration officials learned that illegal aliens were working on the light rail project.
In general, most INS cases begin with complaints from a business' employees or ex-workers, labor unions or citizens, he said.
The light rail project ran into environmental problems late last year, when state inspectors cited some contractors for violating erosion-control regulations in the Ruxton area.