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Leaning minivan yields 14 immigrants

Paul Shockley
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION ” Fourteen suspected illegal immigrants were in federal custody Tuesday after an overloaded minivan was stopped on Interstate 70.

A Colorado State Patrol trooper pulled over an apparent “defective” minivan headed east, just east of the Colorado/Utah line, at 8:19 a.m., according to Trooper Jeff Lytle.

Lytle said a colleague observed what appeared to be problems with the minivan’s transmission.

“It was leaning to one side,” Lytle said. “Turned out to be loaded with 14 people.”

The minivan, he said, was designed to hold about seven occupants.

“It’s not that uncommon to get vehicles more cramped than that,” said Carl Rusnok, regional spokesman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We’ve had pickups with 21 people in them.”

The minivan had a temporary Illinois license plate ” Lytle said isn’t wasn’t immediately clear where the vehicle was going or where it had come from.

Lytle said the Mexican-national passengers ” 12 men and two women ” were turned over Tuesday morning to the custody of ICE agents.

Rusnok said the passengers would likely be transported to Mexico by Thursday under the federal voluntary return program. Under that option, men and women have the chance to avoid a formal deportation hearing before a federal judge.

Voluntary return is offered to “non-criminal” illegal immigrants only, he explained.

“They’ll be driven, flown or literally escorted back across the border,” Rusnok said.

He said the same option would likely be extended to six of seven Mexican nationals detained in a Sunday morning traffic stop on I-70 near Clifton, Colo.

The driver, Javier Laureano-Tomas, 29, of Kannapolis, N.C., was being held at the Mesa County Jail on charges of eluding, driving without a valid license, impeding traffic, and an immigration violation.


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