Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Agents detain 18 illegals at traffic stop

By John Tompkins
The Facts

Published December 6, 2006

ANGLETON — What started as a routine traffic stop for a seat belt violation Tuesday morning resulted in the detention of 18 illegal immigrants inside a four-door, Ford F-350 truck.

A Brazoria County Sheriff’s deputy pulled the vehicle over on Highway 288-B in front of the old Intermedics facility because he noticed five people sitting in the back seat of the cab of the truck who were not wearing seat belts, sheriff’s investigators said.

“Upon walking up to the vehicle with seven people in the cab, there were an additional 11 in the bed of the truck,” said Buck Henson, an investigator with the sheriff’s office.

The driver of the truck was a business owner and told investigators he picked up the 18 men in Houston and was driving them to Angleton for work, Henson said.

The 18 illegal immigrants were taken into custody by the Houston office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The driver of the truck was questioned by immigration agents and released without charges filed, Henson said. Charges against the driver currently are not being pursued but are possible, said Luisa Deason, an immigration and customs spokeswoman.

“What we’re looking at right now is a load of illegal aliens in a truck,” she said. “We’re processing everybody right now as we speak.”

Eight of the immigrants reported being from Honduras while 10 said they were from Mexico, she said. Their names are being checked by federal immigration authorities to ensure there are no outstanding arrest warrants or that they have not been picked up on an immigration violation before.

“They’ll all be repatriated unless they’ve been picked up before,” Deason said. “If we’ve deported them before, we will seek criminal prosecution.”

An illegal immigrant can face up to 20 years in prison for the second violation of entering the country illegally, she said.

John Tompkins covers the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 849-8581.