JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Matt Blunt announced Tuesday night that dozens of suspected illegal immigrants working with falsified documents for a state janitorial contractor have been detained, and the state has canceled the contract of the company that hired them.
Blunt said the employees worked for Sam's Janitorial Services, an Oklahoma-based company that had nine contracts to perform custodial work in Jefferson City, Columbia and Kansas City. All of the workers detained Tuesday were in Jefferson City, the governor's office said.
The governor said he has barred the company from doing any further business with the state.
Blunt also said he signed an executive order Tuesday night directing state agencies to audit all contractors to ensure their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States, and to cancel contracts with any other companies found to be using illegal immigrants.
"We cannot tolerate employers who are unlawfully employing workers at the expense of honest hard-working citizens," Blunt said at a Capitol news conference.
A phone call to a Jefferson City number listed for Sam's Janitorial Services was not immediately returned Tuesday night.
Blunt said Vernon Morris, manager of custodial operations for state facilities, first noticed inconsistencies in the contract employees' work documents and tipped off Capitol Police.
A several-week investigation culminated Tuesday when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and local law enforcement detained the suspected illegal workers as they gathered for what they had been told was a special 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Truman State Office Building.
Pete Baird, assistant special agent in charge of the ICE office in Kansas City, said 25 employees of the janitorial contractor had been detained so far, and others were being questioned Tuesday night.
About 50 of the company's 80 employees showed up for the supposed meeting, he said. The employer was not among those detained, Baird said.
Sam's Janitorial Services first contracted with the state of Missouri in 2001.
The Jefferson City buildings where Sam's Janitorial Services worked did not include the Capitol.