- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Immigration officials said yesterday that they have not yet deported 15 illegal aliens arrested May 23 in Hanover County, Va. because the individuals still are being processed.

“The process is still taking place, and none of them at this time have been deported from the United States,” said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. “It’s still kind of early.”

The 15 illegals were arrested at 6:45 p.m. when a patrolman with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office stopped a Ford van traveling at 62 mph in a 45 mph zone south on Washington Highway, sheriff’s officials said.

When the patrolman approached the van and asked for identification, he was handed Mexican documents, indicating that the man behind the wheel was in the country illegally, officials said.

Police then contacted ICE officials, and Hanover police and ICE agents transported the group to the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover, Va.

Sheriff’s officials said there were 14 persons ages 20 to 49 and one juvenile in the van. Ms. Fobbs said there were six adults and one juvenile from Mexico in the van, and seven adults from Guatemala.

ICE could not provide the native country of the 15th person or say whether that person was in federal custody or still in local custody.

The other 14 illegals now are being held in ICE custody. None of them had prior criminal violations.

Ms. Fobbs said it typically takes a few weeks or more to deport illegals to their home countries.

Officials must gather passports or other travel documents — which sometimes include letters from the U.S. embassies of the illegals’ home countries — to verify their identities.

“Fingerprints, photographs, [officials are] making sure who these people are,” Ms. Fobbs said.

In some cases, illegals are allowed to go before an immigration judge to ask that they be allowed to stay in the United States. The judge then can grant them relief to possibly remain in the country.

However, the illegals in the Hanover County case did not object to being deported and will not appear before a judge, Ms. Fobbs said.

Once the process is complete, the illegals will be placed on either commercial flights in ICE custody or a Department of Justice plane and flown back to their home countries.

“We do use commercial airlines. But if we have a large enough number of people to remove, we will use a [Department of Justice] flight,” Ms. Fobbs said.

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