Feds: Foreigners shouldn't be building Dallas bridge

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by BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV

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wfaa.com

Posted on April 6, 2010 at 9:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 7 at 12:28 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — Last fall, a News 8 investigation revealed that a dozen workers building the new Calatrava bridge across the Trinity River in Dallas used questionable visas to enter to the United States.

The workers brought in from Italy and Eastern Europe under a State Department ruling that permits specialized employees to repair machinery.  The workers in question were welding the new bridge together rather than repairing equipment.

In a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement now says the workers were here illegally. They have been sent home to Italy and Slovakia.

An additional four workers employed by Italian steel fabricator Cimolai remain in the United States while their cases get additional consideration.

The U.S. Department of Labor is also investigating whether the foreign workers are due additional pay for overtime and wage differentials. The men were paid in their home country and did not pay U.S. taxes. U.S law requires that they be paid the prevailing wage, which is $13 an hour.

"What's so sad is they're [the foreigners] getting the back wages," said Mike Cunnigham of the Texas Building Trades Council. "American workers could have been making all of this money." 

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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