DALLAS Seventy million dollars worth of federal, state and city funds are pouring into the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Supporters hope the span will be a signature for the city. But it may be remembered for something else, because the key jobs in its construction -- tens of thousands of man hours of work are going to Italians.
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."
In broken English, a man who appeared to be a foreman, told me all the welders and helpers on the project eleven in all are from Italy.
The Texas Department of Transportation is buying the bridge. The steel comes from Italian company Cimolai. Cimolai imported the workers to build the span without giving Texans a chance at the jobs, which would have been required under H-2B visas, the kind specified for construction jobs.
When asked what kind of visas he and his colleagues had, the foreman in charge of the project said they had "visa for work (sic)."
Documents show the eleven men came in not as construction workers but "business visitors" on B-1 visas.
State Department rules do allow commercial or industrial workers to enter the U.S. under B-1 visas. They are permitted to enter the U.S. to "install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery."
The rules specifically exclude construction such as bridge-building.
TxDOT spokeswoman Cynthia Northrup White said her agency inquired about the legality of the visas "months ago" and found no problem.
The document Northrup White uses to defend the agency's position is an October 5 letter from Houston immigration attorney Beatriz Trillos Ballerini. The letter is not addressed to TxDOT, but rather to the Italian firm Cimolai, which presumably paid for her opinion.
Ballerini said the B-1 visas are "in full accordance with the federal regulations and the Foreign Affairs Manual." Ballerini cites section 9FAM 41.31N10.1 of the Foreign Affairs Manual, which lets workers use B-1 visas to "install equipment purchased from a company outside the United States."
She does not mention the part of the regulations that say the visas are not to be used for construction.
Ballerini did not return News 8's phone calls seeking clarification of her analysis.
Immigration lawyers commonly find parts of the law that fit their clients' needs to justify importing workers, while excluding parts of the law that do not.
An exhaustive News 8 investigation of aircraft mechanics found repair firms importing foreign mechanics as "scientific technicians" and "aircraft repair engineers" to fit certain sections of immigration law, when what the workers were really doing was fixing airplanes.
So it is with the Calatrava bridge.
Immigration lawyer Ballerini writes that "only highly-trained individuals screened for this project possess the specialized knowledge of Cimolai S.p.A distinctive on-site installation technique, including preparation, unique welding procedures, assembly and appropriate lifting."
This is news to Williams Brothers Construction Company, the general contractor for the bridge.
We asked company spokesman Bill Miller if Italian welders are any different than American welders. "Presumably no," he chuckled. "Nothing that I can name."
TxDOT 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. Theyre only human."
All of this, however, is no joke for unemployed welders in North Texas, who might have been working on Dallas' signature bridge.
"We feel like we have American citizens being cheated out of work -- not only from the bridge, but all over by these visas," said Steve Anthony of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. He says he could put 50 welders to work today.
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."
Everyone involved in this project points the finger at someone else.
The U.S. consulate in Milan, Italy approved the visas to "install" the bridge.
TxDOT citing Ballerini's letter to someone else says it is the responsibility of the general contractor to make sure the law is followed.
Williams Brothers Construction passes the buck to Cimolai.
Cimolai doesn't speak English.
And the jobless Texas welders trying to find a way to put dinner on the table tonight don't have anyone to plead their case.
Results 1 to 10 of 17
Thread: Texas BS
11-05-2009, 05:19 PM #1Junior Member
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- Feb 2009
11-05-2009, 05:35 PM #2Junior Member
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- Oct 2009
That is some bull SH!T... You know **** well that if Americans went to Italy and was gonna build a bridge there would be 9 kinds of **** raised. You know the same **** thing is happenin right here in the south east.. Illegal mexicans are going to these contract companies and the companies are giving them SS numbers... Im sorry but if your not a citizen you really dont need to be here working until you go through the proper agencies. But thats just my 2 cents...
11-05-2009, 07:28 PM #3Senior Member
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- West Farmington, OH
If it's in Texas let Texans or other U.S. citizens build it. If it's in Italy let Italians build it. I have no prejudice against people from other countries but I think we owe it to our citizens to put Americans to work and back to work before we allow any foreign citizens to enter our country and work.
My personal feelings are cancel all visas, close the borders until every able bodied American is gainfully employed!!!Blondie (Owner C & S Automotive)
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11-05-2009, 11:14 PM #4
even let anyone bid on the job? Or did it go straight to the Italians? I think it is **** to have a foreigner do they job. The visa thing is **** as well. If they bid lower than anyone that's how they got it. The whole thing is fishy to me.
Just think of all those arabs coming over here and running gas stations and such. Think of all the able bodied people who have never worked and will never work that are on welfare and food stamps. Makes me sick. Foreigners can come over here and get a business loan quicker than an American who could actually make a difference to the economy. Thank your congressman and so on for the @#$^ in your behind and for not passing the lube brothers.
Just my two cents. If you didn't get it then you must be a liberal. LOL!!Bobcat 225
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11-05-2009, 11:44 PM #5Member
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- Mar 2009
- DFW, Texas
I never have figured out exactly what is behind King Rick's fascination with having Texas infrastructure built by European contractors. At one point he was very close to awarding a huge tollway construction contract to a company from Spain, even though there is a very strong regional tollway authority in the area.
I love living in Texas, but I don't have a lot of love for any of our gubernatorial candidates... Maybe the good ones refuse to try to take on some of the messed up issues in the state. Thankfully Texas has so much going right, that the problems are generally more of a PR problem than any significant issue. From everything I have seen or heard, the economy here stayed strong much longer than rest of the country.
11-06-2009, 12:06 AM #6Senior Member
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- Feb 2008
Same dam thing here
The local goverment put out for bid the replacement of boiler tubes at a couple of the power plants. A Chiness company was low bidder they brought in there h-2 workers with them. The thing is that none of the welders could quilify for the procedure. So no company would insure the job. Unemployment is around 20% here. Were expecting quite a bit of military constuction in the next few years so are elected officals are traveling all over asia accepting bribes so the chosen h-2 workers can come to guam, do the work, take the money back to were they came from. Guam is a us territory and this is federal money were talking about, not chicken feed either, over 10 billion dollars.
11-06-2009, 01:09 AM #7Senior Member
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- May 2006
Let's start at the top of this mess. The State of Texas, in designating a European (Spanish) architect to design the bridge, made the first mistake and the one that paved the way for the rest of the problems. Don't we have capable civil engineers/architects in the US? What do they say about allowing the camel's nose in our tent?Miller XMT-350 CC/CV
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11-06-2009, 05:11 AM #8Senior Member
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- Sep 2007
- Medford MA
hired fresh out of engineering school over the last 10 yrs
or so.... the answer to your question might be "no"
(or at least, "not as many as you might hope")
Too many American kids go to college to get law degrees
or psych. degrees or english literature .... Engineering requires
knowing and accepting that 2+2=4 -- not that it's some
"social construct created by some phalo-centric european
gerontocracy that wants to oppress women and people of
color...." and can be whatever we want it to be... it's much
easier to get a degree when you can make up the answers...
I've heard that the vocational h.s. track is similar.
They'd all rather become cosmetologists or pc technicians
than weldors or plumbers -- hanging upside down in the
cold and rain with molten slag dripping on you is hard work...
compared to sitting down in a nice warm salon
with a radio playing and filing someone's nails
That all aside
I agree with the others...
11-06-2009, 09:10 AM #9
I just saw a project like this in my area. The company that was the contractor was owned by another company overseas and thus all the work came from there. Floated over on a big boat while people here sit and the big factories close that used to do that work...BobBob Wright, Grandson of Tee Nee Boat Trailer Founder
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11-07-2009, 11:16 PM #10Member
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- Sep 2008
- Saskatoon, Sask, Canada
So many people complaining about people coming from other countries and talking your work and whatever else from you. It's kind of ironic considering the USA was first colonized by Europeans. Just some food for thought not trying to start anythingHobart Mega Arc 5040DD (with built in air compressor)
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