Renee Cardelli and Amy Post, Wtov9.com, June 20, 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.
Ohio Congressman Bob Ney said the federal government “dropped the ball” by instructing local police to let 20 illegal immigrants go.
Ney said he will contact immigration officials to find out why the llegal Mexican immigrants were not detained after they were discovered Tuesday in Belmont County.
Officials from INS said they did not know about the incident until NEWS9 contacted them.
Ney, a Republican, said incidents like this are not out of the ordinary. He said a similar situation occurred recently in Chilicothe, and Ney said he was assured by officials that it would not happen again.
Ney also said the Belmont County sheriff’s department did exactly what it was supposed to do, and said the federal government is at fault.
“It’s very clear cut. This is all smoke and mirrors from the federal government. INS is not doing its job,” Ney said.