ICE Investigation Leads to Arrests of 27 More Illegal Immigrants

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An investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which led to arrests of 25 immigrants on Thursday, November 17, continued into a second week with the arrest of 27 more illegal immigrants in three separate incidents Monday, November 21.

The ICE investigation, which was originally scheduled to end Friday, November 18, was extended through Monday, said ICE spokesperson Ivan Ortiz.

Six of the 27 immigrants arrested last week were citizens of Cuba – three males and three females – who turned themselves in to ICE officials at the agency’s permanent office on St. Thomas.

Two Separate Incidents
The other 21 immigrants, all Haitians, were arrested on St. John in two separate incidents. ICE was alerted of 12 immigrants on the island, while the second group of nine immigrants was discovered by the V.I. Police Department (VIPD).

The first group of 12 consisted of eight males, three females and one infant. All but the infant and its parents were transferred to the ICE detention center in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where they await their removal from the U.S.

The infant and its parents are staying with family on St. Thomas, according to Ortiz.

“Because of their specific situation, they had a one-year-old baby, they were served with a notice to appear later,” said Ortiz. “We never put minors in the detention center.”

Ortiz could not comment further on the group of 12 immigrants, including where they had been staying on St. John, citing the continuing investigation.

Conflicting Official Reports
ICE and VIPD reports regarding how the second group of nine immigrants was discovered are conflicting.

“A second group of nine illegal immigrants from Haiti were traveling in a van when the U.S. Virgin Island police stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation,” according to a statement by ICE.

“The police department stopped a van for a routine traffic violation,” said Ortiz. Nine people in the van were discovered to be illegal immigrants when they could not produce valid identification, he added. “They apprehended the illegal aliens and the driver is now facing criminal charges.”

A“concerned citizen indicated there was a van parked in the vicinity of the Pine Peace area,” according to VIPD spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah.

“The police found a number of individuals there, including a couple who were hiding in the rear of the van,” said Sgt. Hannah. “You’ve got people hiding in the back of the van, and I’m certain when they talked to them they couldn’t speak very good Enlish.”

Police Blotter Entries
The St. John police blotter did not show record of any citizen calling to report a suspicious van. An entry at 1:15 p.m. on Monday, November 21, stated Officer E. Sprauve called requesting assistance in the vicinity of the Pine Peace Mini Mart with undocumented persons.

The driver of the van, a Haitian immigrant, was not illegally in the country, said Ortiz.

The driver is in ICE custody and may face criminal charges of harboring illegal aliens, the ICE spokesperson added.

Since its formation in March 2003, ICE has arrested more than 1,900 illegal immigrants in the USVI and 75 percent of the arrests took place on St. John, according to an ICE press release.

“There’s pretty much quite a bit of activity of aliens from Haiti trying to come into the U.S. from St. John,” said Ortiz. “That’s why we are allocating more resources and efforts to the territory.”