- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is preparing to deport 15 illegal aliens from Mexico and Guatemala who were arrested Tuesday in Hanover County after the speeding van they were in was stopped by police.

“They were issued notices to appear before an immigration judge and more than likely will be removed from the United States,” said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman.

The illegals went through initial interviews yesterday morning with ICE agents who were working to determine their immigration status, Ms. Fobbs said.

Then the group was driven to an ICE facility in Norfolk where officials conducted further background checks to determine whether they had criminal histories or had histories of entering the country illegally, she said.

“They are in removal proceedings,” Ms. Fobbs said, adding that a judge will take each person on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they should be removed immediately or whether additional charges will be levied.

The incident began at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday when a patrolman with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office stopped a Ford van that was traveling at 62 mph in a 45 mph zone south on Washington Highway, said Sgt. Michael Trice, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.

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, Sgt. Trice said. The patrolman also noticed 12 persons in the back of the van, some of whom had what appeared to be gang-related tattoos.

“As he was conducting the investigation, another car pulled up with two people, and that driver gave police fake identification and presented it as if it was real,” Sgt. Trice said.

In all, there were 14 adults between the ages of 20 and 49 years old, and a juvenile who worked at “various job sites in our county” and stayed “around the metro Richmond area,” Sgt. Trice said.

After further questioning, the immigrants told police in broken English and through an interpreter that they were in the country illegally, Sgt. Trice said.

Police then contacted ICE officials, who arrived Tuesday night with detention papers.

Hanover police and ICE agents transported the group to the Pamunkey Regional Jail, a facility with a housing capacity of 400 inmates that serves Hanover and Caroline counties and the town of Ashland.

In April 2005, a dozen illegal aliens were detained after an Interstate 95 traffic stop in Spotsylvania County.

Virginia State Police found the illegals — who came primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico — riding in a van south of Fredericksburg, where a trooper stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation.

Nine of them eventually were deported to their home countries.

The Spotsylvania County arrests were made a few days after federal authorities released 11 illegals who Fairfax County police found in a van during a traffic stop in Annandale.

In that case, ICE officials ordered the 11 Mexican nationals, three of whom were children, to show up for further immigration processing at the ICE agency in Northern Virginia.

None of the aliens showed up for the proceedings. Officials later located one. Police charged the driver with traffic violations and child endangerment in the case.

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