At Atlanta Airport, A Badging Breach of Sorts

Federal authorities said Wednesday they arrested six illegal immigrants who had security badges that gave them access to the tarmac and other restricted areas at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested the men, all Mexicans employed by T.C. Drywall Inc., as they reported to work at the airport Wednesday, agency spokesman Marc Raimondi said.

Immigration officials said the men had been hired recently to install drywall inside the airport's secure area. They will appear before an immigration judge and face deportation to Mexico.

Immigration officials do not believe the men posed a specific threat, but were concerned that undocumented immigrants had access to a secure area, said Kenneth Smith, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Atlanta.

"ICE is aggressively pursing illegal aliens at the places where they work," Smith said. "Areas of critical infrastructure, such as airports, are especially important to national security."

Officials at the Atlanta airport, the world's busiest in terms of passengers, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday. A message left on Alpharetta-based T.C. Drywall's voicemail also was not immediately returned.

Since March 2003, immigration agents have conducted operations at about 200 U.S. airports and audited nearly 6,000 businesses. The effort has identified more than 5,800 unauthorized airport workers and prompted the arrests of 1,100 illegal workers, Raimondi said.


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