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INS arrests 4 Kenyans allegedly working illegally at airport

July 31, 1997

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Immigration agents arrested four Kenyan students for allegedly working as airport security guards in violation of federal law, officials said Thursday.

The four, all distance runners at Dineh College in Shiprock, N.M., were detained Wednesday and transported to a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service processing center in El Paso, Texas, said Steve Abla, an INS official in Albuquerque. He said the arrests resulted from a tip.

The four had worked about two months in the security area of the Albuquerque airport in the X-ray and metal-detection screening area, Abla said. They allegedly violated INS alien employment regulations and Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Abla said.

``You’ve got aliens who are employed illegally, aliens who are in a high-security area of the airport verifying whether people are allowed to pass through, whether their luggage is safe. It’s a major violation of FAA regulations, and actually the FAA is looking into the violation,″ Abla said.

Roland Herwig, FAA southwest regional spokesman in Oklahoma City, confirmed that Thursday.

Rauli Uitto, an official with the U.S. Track and Field Association in Los Angeles, identified the four as Joseph Rugut, 25; Chris Sabul, 23; Paul Kemei, 23; and Edwin Kiprotich, 25 _ all distance runners specializing in events from 1,500 meters to 10,000 meters. They are from the Rift Valley of Kenya, home to many of the world’s greatest distance runners.

``I believe they are some of the best runners in junior college in the United States,″ Uitto said.

Dineh College, formerly known as Navajo Community College, has recruited Kenyan runners for years. One-time all-American runner Bill Silverberg has coached the program there. College academic adviser Stella Clah said Silverberg was in Africa and unreachable for comment Thursday.

The students were working summer jobs at the airport without INS authorization, Abla said.

He said their student visas allow them to work 20 hours a week on campus during regular school periods in jobs related to their field of study. When school is out, they may work up to 40 hours a week, but only with INS authorization and only in their field of study, he said.

Airport security is not their field of study, he added.

The four had been hired by Maxaero, a firm that provides security personnel for the airport. Maxaero could face fines of $2,000 per worker, the INS said.

City airport spokeswoman Maggie Santiago said Maxaero contracts with the airlines to provide security.

Abla said Maxaero knew that hiring the workers would violate U.S. immigration law.

A woman answering the phone at Maxaero’s Albuquerque office said no one was available to comment.

The Kenyans claimed they did not know they were breaking the law, Abla said, although all foreign students are advised by the INS what their work options are.

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