Monday, June 13, 2011

Federal agencies investigate bridge contractor (WBIR-TN)

Federal agencies investigate bridge contractor
3:32 PM, Jun 13, 2011
Written by Sean Dreher

Federal authorities are now investigating the employment practices of the contractor working to reconstruct the Henley Bridge.

According to Martha Deacon, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are working to determine if Britton Bridge LLC knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.

The investigation comes at the request of the Department of Transportation, the agency that contracted Britton Bridge to work on the Henley Bridge.

"TDOT sent a letter to the Tennessee Department of Labor asking them to look into the questions of whether or not Britton Bridge has knowingly hired illegal immigrants on the Henley Bridge project," said Mark Nagi, T-DOT spokesman.

Solin Estrada Jimenez was struck and killed by a piece of falling debris May 24. His brother told 10News Estrada Jimenez and his son, who was also working on the Henley Bridge project, were in the country illegally.

According to an executive order signed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006, the state is prohibited from entering into contracts with companies who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

Executive Order 41 states: "Persons and companies doing business with the State of Tennessee or a state entity must attest that they will not knowingly utilize the services of illegal immigrants in the performance of a contract and will not knowingly utilize the services of any subcontractor who will utilize the services of illegal immigrants in the performance of the contract."

Deacon said the department was acting on a request by the Department of Transportation to determine if Britton Bridge knew Estrada Jiminez was in the country illegally.

John Van Mol, spokesperson for Britton Bridge, said Estrada Jimenez provided the company with documentation identifying himself as "Rodolfo Bustillos".

"In the case of this individual, the documents presented appeared to be very genuine," Van Mol said.

He said prior to Estrada Jimenez's death the company did not employ the federal E-Verify system. They now use it to check the immigration status of job applicants, and anyone within the company found to be hiring an illegal immigrant will be subject to termination.

"Britton Bridge has a strict policy of hiring only US citizens or those who show appropriate documentation that they are able to legally work in this country," Van Mol said.

Work on the Henley Bridge, along with all other projects under construction by Britton Bridge and its affiliate Mountain States, was suspended following Estrada Jimenez's death. Following a safety review, work was allowed to resume last week.

A decision has not yet been made if Britton Bridge and Mountain States will be allowed to bid on T-DOT projects in the future.

"That is something that has not been decided yet. It will be discussed and talked about in the days and weeks to come," Nagi said.

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