Tulsa County Sheriff's office detains, releases 16 immigrants

Wednesday, July 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa County Sheriffs deputies Wednesday detained but then released 16 allegedly undocumented immigrants at the request of federal immigration authorities, the department said.

A deputy stopped a van along Interstate 244 near downtown Tulsa about 3:30 a.m. for a missing taillight and found the 16 immigrants from Mexico crowded in the back, Capt. Bill Bass said.

Deputies also detained the van's two drivers, who said they were taking the Mexican nationals from Houston to New York or Chicago, Bass said.

``They had no documentation whatsoever,'' Bass said. ``They all admitted they didn't have green cards.''

Bass said deputies contacted the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who told them to detain the immigrants and the drivers. But after two hours the INS asked the department to let them all go, Bass said.

``They said they didn't want them and asked us to release them,'' Bass said, adding that he was dissatisfied with the INS explanation.

The INS regional office in Dallas did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Bass said deputies ``have no clue'' where the immigrants, who included three juveniles, went after their release. They told deputies they had been in the country about 24 hours, he said.

The department is trying to build charges against the drivers, he said.