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13 Suspected Illegals Walk Away From Cops

Local, State, And Federal Agents Turn Away

AURORA, Colo. -- Going 75 mph in a 55 mph zone seemed like a simple speeding ticket. Instead, the stop along Interstate 70 Wednesday morning would highlight an immigration system that is still full of holes.

A red Dodge minivan was pulled over going eastbound near Tower Road at 9:19 a.m. According to the police report, the Aurora officer found a driver and 13 passengers in the van. Further investigation revealed that all 13 said they were picked up in Mexico two days prior by a man offering to get them work in Kansas.

Valente Cantoral-Herrera, 33, faces 13 counts of human smuggling and assault charges for allegedly injuring one of the Aurora officers who responded. Despite several phone calls to state and federal agencies though, all 13 suspected illegal immigrants, including several women and a 12-year-old boy, were set free.

"It's certainly our position we want to work with Immigration. But, as a local agency, we are not in the business of enforcing immigration law," said Aurora Police Detective Bob Friel.

In the arrest report, one policeman writes, "I then inquired about the CSP task force that was formed for this issue." Officer Javen Harper was told "they only act as a type of liaison between police and ICE."The state patrol's Immigration Enforcement Unit was formed in July 2007. They did not respond to the scene. A spokesman, Sgt. John Hahn, said, " We can't respond to calls within city limits. This is a problem for all of us in law enforcement. If we responded to every call, it would require resources we don't have."

Citing operational constraints, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement also refused to respond.

"ICE responds to the vast majority of calls from local jurisdictions.On rare occasions, we don't have the manpower to spare," said ICE regional spokesman Carl Rusnok in Dallas, Texas.

In April, Aurora's city council approved an expansion to its immigration detention center near I-70 and Peoria, nearly quadrupling it to hold 1500 people. None of the 13 suspected illegals was brought there. In the end, a police sergeant and commander told the officer on the scene to let the suspected illegal immigrants go.

They were last seen walking south, away from I-70."At that point, they disappear into society. We've lost track of them," said Friel.
 
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