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Asbestos firm accused of hiring illegal aliens Suspended from Rath Building job

A New Jersey company that was removing asbestos from the Rath Building was suspended from the job Wednesday, a day after police arrested seven alleged illegal aliens on the work crew.

"I have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigrants performing work on Erie County contracts and I have never had occasion to apply this policy until today," County Executive Joel Giambra said after speaking to Citizenship and Immigration Services investigators dealing with Superior Abatement of New Jersey.

Giambra said Superior Abatement won a competitive bidding process for the asbestos work that is part of the renovation of the county office building. Spokesmen for Superior Abatement could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau confirmed that seven members of an 11-man asbestos abatement crew were arrested at the Rath Building about 5 p.m. Tuesday and later released on their own recognizance pending Immigration Court hearings in Batavia.

Erie County Attorney Laurence K. Rubin said the arrests prompted talks with U.S. immigration officials that have led to the imposition of a requirement that all contractors on Erie County government jobs keep immigration certificates for all non-American workers on each job site.

Giambra said he has directed both the Public Works Department and the county attorney's office to suspend Superior Abatement's month-old contract pending a determination of the workers' status.

If Superior Abatement is kicked off the county job, "the work will be completed either by looking to the contractor's performance bond or by requesting authority to go to the next low bidder," Giambra added.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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