In addition to the following new article on this story, be sure to watch the video report because it is better than the text version: Feds: Foreigners shouldn't be building Dallas bridge, by Byron Harris, WFAA-TV, April 7, 2010.
The events that transpired since last year can read by using the following links to my excellent and informative articles:
Italian Welders Work On Dallas Bridge–Texans Remain Jobless, 11/23/2009 Italian Welders Denied Entry to U.S., 2/7/2010 WFAA’s Byron Harris On Immigration, 2/7/2010
This story has a happy ending: most of the foreign workers were deemed to have illegal visas, which means that Cimolai will have no choice but to hire Texan welders to get the job done. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determined that the foreign welders should have been using H-2B instead of B-1 visas in order to hold these jobs in the U.S. [NOTE: In my first article about the Trinity River bridge project (November 2009) I explained why using B-1 for these jobs is illegal but it took ICE until now to come to the same conclusion. Duh!]
Actually the only thing new since the welders were not allowed back into the U.S. in early February is that ICE made an official declaration that the workers were in the U.S. illegally. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for the persistent investigative reporting from journalist Byron Harris of Dallas, Texas at WFAA-TV, so be sure to thank him Email him. Let's give a tip of our ten gallon hats to Harris and his brave editors at the TV station because without their reporting this story would have never seen the light of day!
It's not clear that even a single one of the illegal workers were deported because the only ones that aren't working are the ones who left the U.S. for Christmas vacations. Four of them are still in the U.S. and gainfully employed by Cimolai. Unless ICE apprehends and deports them they will continue to work while jobless Texans enjoy vacations at their own expense.
The Byron Harris article suggests that in addition to ICE, the DOL is doing an investigation:
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.I scoured the internet for a press release by ICE or the DOL about the investigation but at the time of this writing haven't been able to find one. If these guv agencies are doing something they are keeping it a well hidden secret. That's not typical of either of these agencies because in high profile cases they are usually quick to publish press releases. What's going on with that?
"What's so sad is they're [the foreigners] getting the back wages," said Mike Cunningham of the Texas Building Trades Council. "American workers could have been making all of this money."
Mike Cunningham's quote is excellent and proves Lesson #3 below. It would seem that the union would be anxious to brag about their newfound victory over cheap foreign labor, but the last time the Texas Building Trades Council happened to mention the fiasco at the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Project in Dallas was on February 12, 2010.
Why is everyone but Bryon Harris and Mike Cunningham so darn quiet on this major news event?
There are a few lessons that can be learned from the Trinity Bridge incident: