Five more people in the country illegally were picked up locally, officials said. One is in custody of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the other four were set free by the same agency.
Tuesday evening, Hazleton police responded to what was termed a large fight, allegedly involving baseball bats and other weapons.
They arrived at the scene of the melee, near Chestnut and Poplar streets on the South Side, and picked up two 15-year-olds, one of whom had a BB gun.
One was released to his parents.
The other was in the country illegally and was picked up by ICE, police said. He’s being held for a deportation hearing. Specifically where he was from and where he was Wednesday wasn’t immediately clear.
But ICE allowed four other illegals picked up over the weekend to be on their way.
Sunday afternoon, a van broke down along Interstate 80 in Butler Township not far from the Mountain Top/Hazleton exit. State police at Troop N stopped and found four people in the country illegally.
The four said they were on their way to Chicago.
Police took the four into custody. They also contacted ICE.
State police were told ICE would take no action and to release them.
Superior Court Judge Correale F. Stevens was critical of ICE’s decision to release the four and said it points out a flaw in the system.
“Such a policy creates law enforcement problems,” Stevens said. “Our police officers put their lives at risk to made a detention or an arrest and are told to release the illegals.”
“Apparently the federal government is understaffed and overwhelmed, but for whatever reason, illegals are being released at the direction of federal officials,” Stevens added. “If state and local police could detain and arrest, county district attorneys prosecute and county judges have the power to deport, all without needing permission from federal officials, our law-abiding citizens would be better protected.”
“I think perhaps if the local police and judges could detain and deport, it would take pressure off federal government,” Stevens said. “And I think county judges should have the authority to deport. They don’t need the federal government to hold their hand.”
“I think (ICE) should come here for one illegal, but this was four!” Stevens declared. “What kind of message does that send? Does it mean we could see the situation escalate to other crimes? The federal government is either unwilling or unable to handle it.”
“I want to start some kind of dialogue,” Stevens said. “And maybe if local officials would say to representatives and senators, ‘We share powers, and there’s nothing in the constitution that says we can’t deal with immigration, at least at some level,’ we might see a change.”