"The ability for someone to get into the plant under some false identity - we want to shut that off," plant spokesman Mac Harris said.
At Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, Timco Aviation Services conducted five-year criminal background checks on all of its employees but left subcontractors to do their own screening, company spokesman Monty Hagler said. As a result of the arrests, Timco will require subcontractors to make background checks on their employees, he said.
At least two of the 27 airplane mechanics arrested at the airport bought fraudulent Social Security cards on a soccer field for between $50 (euro38.50) and $70 (euro54), according to court documents. But all the workers were supervised by certified mechanics, said Hagler, minimizing their security risks.
"Terrorism was not an issue in this. This was an immigration issue," Hagler said.
Immigration advocates said the arrests highlight the need to overhaul work laws for illegal immigrants. Last year, President George W. Bush renewed his call for a guest worker program for immigrants seeking jobs.
"Part of reform needs to recognize that there are people here, living in the U.S., and working and paying taxes, who need to come out of the shadows," said Judy Golub, spokeswoman for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
"We're never going to enhance our security until we have immigration reform," Golub said.
Associated Press Writer Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.