Illegal Immigrants Free To Go

WTOV News (NBC Affiliate) | June 21, 2006

Local police said they intercepted 20 illegal Mexican immigrants, but were ordered by immigration officials to let them go free.

Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson said his officers were instructed by federal immigration services to let all 20 illegal immigrants go free, and said his department has no choice but to follow the orders from immigration officials.

Thompson said officers stopped a van at 3 a.m. Tuesday which was traveling the wrong direction on Interstate 470 in St. Clairsville.

The officer discovered 20 illegal Mexican immigrants inside the van, including three who were previously deported. The officer immediately contacted immigration officials, who told him to let all 20 immigrants go.

"Once we find out they are illegals, it's like pat them on the back of the head and tell them, 'Go on down the road; you'll probably get stopped again,'" Thompson said.

The immigrants told the officer they were traveling through Ohio to obtain work in Manassas, Va.

Calls to Citizenship and Immigration Services as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement have not been returned.