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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Feds acknowledge deportations followed Rio Vista traffic stop

By Nathan Salant
Solano County Buzz Examiner
July 3, 2010

Federal immigration authorities acknowledged Friday that two Latino cousins detained during a traffic stop in Rio Vista had been deported.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, said the two men -- Joel and Jose Reyes -- were considered to be criminal aliens at the time of the stop and were subject to deportation.

"Joel Reyes and Jose Reyes advised ICE officers they were in the country illegally and signed documents agreeing to voluntarily return to their native countries in lieu of a hearing before an immigration judge," ICE public affairs officer Lori Haley said in a written statement.

Rio Vista Police Chief William Bowen said neither man had a driver's license and volunteered to the officer who pulled their car over that they were in the country illegally.

The two were arrested, and ICE officials were contacted and requested that both men be detained, according to The Reporter newspaper in Vacaville.

Bowen said his officer did the right thing by arresting the two men and contacting immigration officials. Bowen also rejected complaints by a Stockton attorney who said local police have no authority to question suspects' immigration status.

"I think the officer was very prudent," Bowen said. "I've been in this business a long time and I've learned that you just do what the federal government agencies tell you."

But the attorney, Hector Cavazos, who did not represent either suspect, told the newspaper that he believes the officer asked both men to verify their immigration status before arresting them.

"State and local authorities have no authority policing or enforcing immigration," he said. "As soon as they said they didn't have driver's licenses, they should have been told to leave. The inquiry should have stopped there."

But Bowen called the situation "difficult" and said he actually was surprised that ICE ordered the men deported.

He said that last October, a van with nine illegal immigrants was pulled over in Rio Vista and federal officials only wanted the driver arrested and deported. The other eight were released, Bowen said.