Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Local authorities told that without charges, feds would not pick up illegal immigrants

Local authorities told that without charges, feds would not pick up illegal immigrants

Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 7:50 AM EDT

By Kate Hessling
Tribune Staff Writer

BAD AXE — Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson noted Saturday’s arrest of an illegal immigrant at a local farm is the second of two incidents involving illegal immigrants that have occurred in Huron County over the past two weeks.

The first incident was one that was handled by the Bad Axe Police Department in the early hours of March 31. According to the police report from the March 31 incident, Officer Shawn R. Webber pulled over a vehicle that was traveling about 15 miles per hour, which is well below the posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour. Webber followed the vehicle, which had been traveling using both the north and southbound lanes and was weaving from lane to lane. The driver also kept activating the vehicle’s turn signal, but the vehicle would not turn.

“Given the traffic violations I observed, I stopped the vehicle,” Webber states in the police report.

The officer found the driver and three other passengers were all Hispanic males. He reported he asked the driver for his driver’s license and vehicle papers, but he did not get a response. One of the three passengers then stated the driver does not speak English and does not have a driver’s license. Webber then asked the other passengers if they had identification, and the English-speaking passenger stated none had any type of identification.

The officer was able to determine the driver’s name was Alberto Gomez, and he was an illegal immigrant and was not in the U.S. legally. Webber also learned all of the passengers were illegal immigrants.

Gomez was taken into custody for driving without a license. Webber was not able to obtain any further information as to the identity of the other passengers. He was able to make contact with their employer, who was requested to the scene. While waiting for the employer to arrive, Webber contacted an agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He told the agent Gomez was being lodged in the jail on local charges, and there were three other illegal immigrants at the scene.

The ICE agent told Webber ICE no longer would place a detainer on illegal immigrants unless they were being lodged on local charges.

“He explained that the only way ICE will pick up illegal immigrants is if they can send agents out to immediately pick them up,” Webber’s report states. “He advised that this would not be possible this night as ICE agents were preparing for a search warrant in the morning hours and that no agents would be available to come to pick up the illegal immigrants. He advised that he could contact the detention office and have them contact the jail or myself to have a detainer placed on (Gomez), as he was being lodged on local charges. He advised that the remaining passengers should be released if they were not being held on local charges.”

The ICE agent did request as much information as possible be obtained on the passengers and their employer, and that information be forwarded to him in an e-mail.

Efforts to contact ICE officials from the Detroit Field Office were unsuccessful as of deadline Tuesday.

Indicated more illegal immigrants in the area

When the boss of the passengers arrived to the scene, he explained his Veedersburg, Ind. company is working in the area building silos at the Ruth Co-op. He confirmed the passengers were his employees and they were staying at a Bad Axe hotel, along with about 16 to 18 additional employees.

The employer told Webber he did not know that the employees were illegal immigrants, as he had taken the proper steps through the state of Indiana to hire them. He advised he had been given social security numbers for all his employees, but he did not have access to that information at this time.

Given the information Webber obtained, he contacted U.S. Border Patrol officials, who stated that because of recent conflicts with ICE, the U.S. Border Patrol no longer covered the area of Huron County to pick up illegal immigrants. The border patrol official stated ICE is responsible for the Huron County area, and he noted his office was only allowed to cover the Sanilac County area to the southern border of Huron County.

“I explained that ICE had been contacted and that they were not able to pick up the three subjects that I believed to be here illegally,” Webber’s report states. “He expressed his regret that he could not help. He advised that he would make his supervisors aware of the situation, but that he would not be able to assist in detaining the remaining subjects.”

Given that there were no local charges on the remaining three subjects, they were released to leave with their boss. Webber made sure to get their possible names and dates of birth, however, he was unable to get other information, including social security numbers because they either couldn’t speak English or didn’t know their social security numbers. One specifically noted he is an illegal immigrant, and said the other two passengers, along with several other employees staying at the hotel, also are illegal immigrants.

Hanson: By rights, more should have been deported

Hanson said the only individual from the Indiana work crew that was deported was the driver Bad Axe police arrested.

“They let the other three go, and then ICE ended up coming to Bad Axe to pick up the one that had charges,” he said. “But by rights, there should have been four picked up the night of the incident.”

Since the March 31 incident, Hanson has been in communication with U.S. Border Patrol officials and he said that while ICE has jurisdiction in terms of investigation, the border patrol has been helpful in picking up illegal immigrants that are arrested by local police.

“My understanding is the ICE people are the ones with primary jurisdiction. But, because of whatever reason, they are unable to accommodate, and the U.S. Border Patrol has been taking care of us,” he said. “I can’t think of many times that ICE has come up here — it’s usually border patrol that’s taken them off our hands.”

“Basically ... if it wasn’t for the relationship that we have with the border patrol, I’d still be raising Cain with somebody because I don’t think it’s in any way, shape or form right to tell the illegal alien, ‘You’re here illegally, go back to Mexico,’ Hanson later added. “That’s what we’ve been told to tell them. It’s unacceptable. ... They’re basically telling us we can’t contain them because they won’t come up and pick them up.”

When asked if there is a problem of illegal immigrants in Huron County, Hanson said, “There always has been.”

“As far as illegal aliens being in our county, that’s been ongoing,” he added. “We do know that there’s been illegal (immigrants) who mule illegal drugs up here to pay for their trip from Mexico. We’ve turned information over to the ICE people about where they live and where they work, but I’m taking the stand that it’s the federal government’s responsibility when it comes to checking paperwork at farms to see if people are here legally or not — as opposed to the local county sheriff having to take that task on.”

Hanson said the involvement of local law enforcement begins when there’s a criminal or non-criminal complaint or some other reason that causes local police to have to deal with someone who is illegally in the U.S. — local law enforcement’s involvement does not include checking citizenship.

“In examples such as if they’re driving a vehicle without a license, operating a vehicle that may not have insurance, or causing a domestic disturbance, we just can’t look the other way,” he said.

And when ICE officials are not able to help, border patrol provides assistance, Hanson said.

He stressed his department only deals with these matters when there are incidents that require local law enforcement’s involvement.

“We’re not going to be beating on barn doors and checking papers,” Hanson said. “ ... But when we run into them, whether it’s a criminal or non-criminal (matter), and they’re here illegally, we’ll make an attempt with the ICE people ... and 99 percent of the time, (ICE does not respond), and we’ll call border patrol and border patrol takes care of them.”

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