Italian Welders Work On Dallas Bridge—Texans Remain Jobless


The
Trinity River Corridor Project,
a major

Dallas, Texas
construction project to build bridges
over the

Trinity River
, is an example of what can go wrong
for American workers when work is

outsourced
to foreign-owned companies.

The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was designed by Spanish
architect Santiago
Calatrava,
and most of the bridge`s structures were
imported from Italian company
Cimolai.
Texas taxpayers will pay for it all, but the profits
from building the bridge will be sent overseas—and
Italians on temporary work visas are

getting the good paying construction jobs
.

Watch

this
YouTube video to see raw video footage of the
Italian steel arriving at Port Houston and how it was
transported by truck [another
video
] to Dallas for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Most news reports call the shipment
“steel” but
that word is highly misleading. This is no shipload of
steel ingots brought here to be melted and turned into
finished products. You will see in that video that
steel
means girders, support columns, and many other
high-value

manufactured
components. They are enormous (some
look like giant water heaters) and need to hoisted by
crane onto

trucks
to be shipped to the
Trinity
River Project.
All that needs to be done in the U.S. is to set these enormous pieces
of steel in place and weld them together like a giant

erector set.


WFAA-TV
and

KHOU-TV
published news reports that describe the
tense labor situation. Be sure to watch their excellent
video reports because they have information not reported
on their text versions, notably more union and worker
reaction.

WFAA`s report gives an early clue about who is doing
some of the work:

“On the
construction site in the Trinity River bottoms, an
American inspector told

News 8: `If you
don`t

speak Italian
, it`s going to be tough to
communicate.`
” [Italians,
not Texans, building signature Dallas bridge
, By
Byron Harris, WFAA-TV, November 5, 2009]

Italian construction workers came to Dallas with
nonimmigrant
B-1 business visas.
That`s creating quite a
controversy over who should get these jobs—and the fact
that using B-1 visas for this purpose is probably
illegal.

Using the right visa is more than a matter of
semantics. If the wrong visa is issued, then the
immigrant loses status, and technically becomes an
illegal alien.

In order to understand why B-1 is not the proper visa
to use for this purpose, refer to the
U.S. Department of
State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9
[PDF].
The manual explains what types of jobs can qualify for
B-1 visas and states that, when petitioners are not
eligible for B-1, they may be able to get

H-2
visas (sort of like the H1-B visa, but for
blue collar workers.)

The B-1 visa is supposed to be used for people like
managers and executives (and whoever else doesn`t
actually do any real work, LOL!) 
This clause from the manual should automatically
disqualify the Italian welders

“Section 9 FAM
41.31 N10.4-2 Business or Other Professional or
Vocational Activities

“An alien who is
coming to the United States merely and exclusively to
observe the conduct of business or other professional or
vocational activity U.S.”

If that wasn`t enough, the manual specifically
excludes construction work from B-1 visas:

“9 FAM 41.31
N10.1 Commercial or Industrial Workers
(CT:VISA-701; 02-15-2005)

“a. An alien
coming to the United States to install, service, or
repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery
purchased from a company outside the United States or to
train U.S. workers to perform such services.

“b. These
provisions do not apply to an alien seeking to perform
building or construction work, whether on-site or
in-plant. The exception is for an alien who is applying
for a B-1 visa for supervising or training other workers
engaged in building or construction work,
but not actually
performing any such building or construction work.

[Emphasis added]

Like so many of our visa programs, B-1 contains
loopholes that are subject to interpretation. Whenever
laws are squishy, lawyers will
find
a way
to get around them—in this case,

Colombian-born
Houston immigration attorney Beatriz
Trillos Ballerini uses section
“a” to argue
that the Italian welders are installing foreign-made
equipment, so they qualify for B-1 visas.

Ballerini covers all bases, just in case somebody
persists in asking her why Italian welders need to be
used—she claims that the welders have specialized skills
that are specific to that bridge. But bureaucrats at the
U.S. consulate in

Milan, Italy
somehow approved the visas to
“install”
(tsk!tsk!) the bridge, which proves that they don`t read
their own

State Department
manuals. Dubious claims from
Ballerini don`t change the fact that the proper visa to
use is the H-2B.

So just how
“specialized”
are those Italian welders at
Cimolai—and how well has outsourcing and offshoring
worked out for Texas?

Here is a report about

“un errore
stupido”
by those Italiano workers:

“TxDOT [Texas
Department of Transport]
officials admit
that the Italian workers actually welded the wrong ends
of two sections of the bridge together. `They turned one
of the boxes [
a massive piece of support steel on
the bottom of the structure]
around the wrong way,` TxDOT inspector Stan Ybarra told
News 8. `That happens. They`re only human.`”

In fact, Cimolai`s B-1 workers are probably the least
of the problems from the company`s point of view. In
August, it announced that its steel shipments are to be

delayed by ten months
.

TxDOT claims that the delays won`t raise the cost of
the project. But that`s only if the fixed priced
contract with Cimolai is considered while all the other
expenses are ignored. Construction delays always end up
costing somebody something.

The much-acclaimed Spanish architect Santiago
Calatrava hasn`t had a stellar Dallas performance
either. Somehow, the Spaniard conned Dallas into
building a bridge
to nowhere
, at least until recently-discovered
problems with the river levee are resolved. After
Calatrava first designed the bridge the lowest price
bidder was $113 million, which was way over what

Dallas was willing to pay
. Calatrava had to redesign
the bridge to be less costly by using cylindrical arches
instead of heptagonal, and by substituting PVC for steel
drain pipes. This begs the question—since he is such a
genius of an architect why didn`t he design it right the
first time?

Outsourcing the bridge to

save money
was a bad idea. The other questionable
action was using B-1 visas improperly. But it`s not
clear that Cimolai or any other contractor will pay a
penalty for

gaming the immigration system
.

Why didn`t the Italian company save themselves some
trouble by using H-2B visas?

The simple answer: B-1 visas are easier and quicker
to obtain than H-2Bs and there is no limit to the number
of visas that can be issued.

The other, less obvious reason: H-2B regulations
contain similar verbiage to the H-1B program—they both
require a

“good faith” effort
by employers to consider Americans first.
Cimolai probably figured that H-2B could be a tough sell
in a depressed
Dallas

construction industry where qualified American workers
are plentiful. Nosy

immigration investigators
could be an additional
fly-in-the-ointment if they asked Cimolai why American
welders can`t be found. B-1 visas have no such
requirements to consider American workers so the dangers
of bad publicity are reduced—or so Cimolai thought!

(In a way, Cimolai was right. The immigration
enthusiast Dallas
Morning News
has reported problems on the
project—but has somehow not mentioned the temporary
worker scandal. See


State report offers solutions for concerns with Trinity
River levees – but Army Corps must approve them
,

by Michael A. Lindenberger, November 14, 2009)

It goes without saying that American welders who were
hoping to find jobs on that publicly funded $70 million
project aren`t too happy about losing their jobs to
foreign workers.

Recently the AFL-CIO has actually started making some
noise about the use of B-1 visas to hire foreign
welders. It`s refreshing to hear patriotic talk coming
from the unions—for a change:

“But there are
all kinds of ways to get around
[visa
safeguards
]
too, said Michael Cunningham with the AFL-CIO. `We have
a lot of American workers who could be using this work
right now, especially with the high unemployment in
construction which is probably around 20 percent in this
state,` he said.”
[Workers
complain that immigrants use B-1 visas to steal American
jobs
,
KHOU.Com, November 19, 2009
]

If Cunningham doesn`t watch what he says he might be
branded a xenophobe, protectionist, or even
worse things, like
ANTI-IMMIGRANT!
Or even…racist!

Unfortunately for unemployed American welders in
Dallas who are

losing their houses
or

can`t feed their children
, by the time anything can
be

done in the court system,
the Italian welders will
be long gone—with lots of Euros in their pockets, to

bask on the beaches
of the

Mediterranean
. Something should have been done to
resist the outsourcing before 2005 when the contract was
given to a foreign owned company—because offshoring and
the importation of foreign workers are two sides of the
same coin.

Fortunately the unions have other opportunities to
get

American construction workers
back to work. That`s
because the Margaret
Hunt Hill
Bridge is the first one of three
bridges over the Trinity River
to be built.

But actions needs to be taken immediately to prevent
Cimolai from using foreign workers with impunity.

Unions and unemployed welders can`t count on
political support from the city to solve the problem—at
least if the Mayor of Dallas, Tom Leppert [Send
him mail
], gets his way. During the WFAA
interview, he told unemployed Dallas construction
workers to eat cake:

“Although the
bridge is a signature project for Dallas, Mayor Tom
Leppert said the lost jobs are not the city`s problem.
`That one`s being run by TxDOT, so TxDOT`s going to have
to be the one to do the fact check, the analysis, all of
those sorts of things; they`re going to have to be
approached.`”

The one thing the union could do to solve the
immediate problem of getting those jobs back is to
demand that the fraudulent B-1 visas be revoked on the
grounds that technically the Italian workers are illegal
aliens.

For inspiration the unions could look to a recent

story
from India.

Chinese immigrants used fraudulent business visas
to
work and live there.  The Chinese workers were
booted out of India, but only after persuasive mobs of
rioting local citizens demanded that their country`s
immigration laws be enforced.

If angry

Indian nationalists
carrying clubs and sticks can do
it, then surely the AFL-CIO can figure out a way!





Rob Sanchez (
email
him) is a Senior Writing Fellow for




Californians for Population
Stabilization

and author of the "Job
Destruction Newsletter"
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at




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