15 illegal aliens in van released

by Bob Stiles, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 3, 2005

State police at Somerset released a vanload of 15 illegal aliens after federal immigration officials didn't want to go out in bad weather this week.

Cpl. Robert F. Johnson said in a news release that he stopped a van carrying the aliens at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday on a section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Stony Creek Township, Somerset County. He then couldn't get U.S. immigration officials to travel to the Somerset barracks of the turnpike, he said.

"They declined to take the aliens into custody, citing poor weather conditions," Johnson's report stated.

He couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Sgt. Anthony DeLuca, the commander of the turnpike station, said police were forced to release the 13 Mexicans and two Guatemalans when the federal officials didn't come.

"We can't detain them unless they commit a crime," he said.

Ernestine Fobbs, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, confirmed that the decision not to go was made because of snowfall and heavy winds. It also followed a background check on the aliens.

"We didn't want to risk the lives of our employees or the aliens," she said. "We didn't think that they were a threat."...

In May, immigration officials didn't want to get involved after Greensburg police had stopped seven Mexican men and women who admitted being illegal aliens. The immigration officials were only interested in getting involved if any of the Mexicans had a criminal background or an outstanding warrant, police said....

Greensburg police stopped the Mexican's extended-cab vehicle at a traffic checkpoint set up on North Main Street, near Cabin Hill Drive. Through a translator, they admitted being in the country illegally. They said they were heading for Philadelphia from Columbus, Ohio, in search of construction work....

The 15 aliens stopped this week were heading from Colorado to New Jersey for work.

Yesterday, immigration officials went to Bedford County to take custody of six people who were stopped on the turnpike by state police and were determined to be illegal aliens, said Carl DeFebo, turnpike spokesman.

"This time, INS came out," he said.

DeFebo didn't have any statistics on how many illegal aliens are stopped on the turnpike each year....

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