Federal authorities released 11 illegal aliens who were detained during a traffic stop in Annandale because immigration officials said they did not pose a threat to the public.
“The 11 passengers were processed and released,” said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. “There were children involved, so it was better that we released them.”
Authorities ordered the 11 Mexican nationals, three of whom are children, to return to immigration offices tomorrow for further processing. Ms. Fobbs said officials do not know where the illegals are in the meantime.
“It’s up to them whether they come back,” she said. “If they do not, they will be considered fugitives, and once we do encounter them again, they’ll be removed from the United States. They stand to lose a lot if they do not appear.”
The decision to release the aliens represents a larger struggle between local and federal officials on how to deal with illegal immigration, said Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican.
“It highlights the problem that immigration violation is a federal offense and a state or county officer does not have the authority to detain them for a federal offense,” Mr. Albo said. “You get your hands on them, and you have no authority to do anything.”