Halliburton subcontractor hires illegal immigrants for Katrina work
21 Oct. 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- As many as 100 undocumented immigrants have been hired by a Halliburton subcontractor to clean-up areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina, a United States senator revealed. ###
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) accused Alabama-based BE&K of illegally hiring the workers after Halliburton awarded a subcontract to the firm to repair naval bases damaged by the hurricane.
The Associated Press reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have detained the workers for violating immigration laws.
"It is a downright shame that any contractor would use this tragedy as an opportunity to line his pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force," Landrieu said in a statement. She urged the Department of Homeland Security to investigate what she called a "chronic" use of undocumented workers by government contractors involved in Katrina cleanup.
"The federal government must ensure that every company, no matter how big, follows the law and provides Gulf Coast residents with the jobs they deserve," Landrieu said.
This is not the first time Halliburton and its subcontractors have been criticized for the way foreign workers are treated. Halliburton was recently criticized for exploiting foreign workers in Iraq by forcing them to live in inhumane conditions and paying below minimum wage compensation.
Critics worry that similar problems will be found in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.
The head of the U.S. office in Baghdad which handed out Iraq contracts recently found a job with BE&K in Alabama. Retired U.S. Navy Admiral David Nash headed the Project Management Office in Baghdad where he oversaw $18.7 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts for the Bush administration. Today, Nash is president of BE&K Government Group.
Nash's new position with a Halliburton subcontractor may fuel the already heightened public concern that poor contractor performance in Iraq may be exported to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
BE&K attempted to ease those concerns:
"Although Dave served in a management position during the initial reconstruction effort in Iraq, he had no authority to award contracts," Susan Wasley, a BE&K spokeswoman, recently told Reuters. "There is no connection between the hurricane-related work we are doing in Mississippi and Louisiana and Nash's involvement in Iraq," she said.
While in Iraq, Nash and his colleagues failed to prevent Halliburton from charging the government $1.4 billion in expenses that military audiors deemed unreasonable or unsupportable.
Furthermore, Halliburton's public record is tainted by numerous ongoing government investigations into bribery, bid rigging, felonious overcharging of U.S. taxpayers and earning illegal profits in Iran.
The State Department issued a scathing report last year criticizing Halliburton's cost overcharges and denounced the company's performance in Iraq as "poor." Even the military recommended that Halliburton's most valuable contract be terminated. And Members of Congress have demanded that the Bush administration suspend Halliburton from all new contracts.
"The [Bush] administration has an abysmal contracting record in Iraq," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said at a recent congressional hearing examining Katrina contracts. "We can't afford to make the same mistakes again. We must make sure taxpayer funds are not wasted, because every dollar thrown away today is a dollar that is not available to hurricane victims and their families," he said.
The current value of Halliburton's contracts for Katrina cleanup totals $124.9 million.
Sen. Landrieu Calls For Hearing Into "Unscrupulous" Labor Practices
Letter from Sen. Landrieu requesting hearings