Police arrest 17 illegal immigrants

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 29, 2000

Natchez Police had reason to be suspicious Monday after spotting a van driving through town with darkly tinted windows.

After pulling over the Texas plated van at around 7 a.m., officers found 18 people in the van including 17 Hispanic illegal immigrants.

The Natchez Police Department is holding the immigrants until the Border Patrol office in Baton Rouge comes to pick them up, said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff.

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“They have deemed these folks illegal aliens,” he said.

No one in the group had green cards or documentation, he added.

Police arrested the 17 immigrants near the McDonald’s on U.S. 61 North.

The group ranged in age from 16 to 30 and included 15 males and two females.

During booking, the immigrants were reported to represent a number of Hispanic countries, including San Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. And two claimed to be from Texas and New Mexico.

Huff said some of his officers speak street survival Spanish and were able to talk with the immigrants.

The suspects also talked with the Border Patrol on the phone.

This agency will conduct an investigation and will look into where the van was taking the immigrants, Huff said.

The driver of the van, a 38-year-old Hispanic from Houston, Texas, was not arrested because he had a valid Texas license and is not considered an immigrant.

He may face charges at a later date.

Border Patrol will conduct an investigation and determine whether he can be charged or not,” Huff said.

He was released with a warning for the window tent violation, Huff added.

Arrests like this are nothing new to local law enforcement officials.

“We got 11 or 12 about eight or nine months ago,” Huff said.

Despite Monday’s high number of arrests the police department has been able to handle the increase.

“We got the room. It didn’t cause any problems,” Huff said. “We worked it out.”

The Border Patrol is expected to pick up the immigrants sometime today.