Steamboat Springs Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained at least five illegal immigrants this week in Routt and Moffat Counties.
The detentions were part of a three-day operation that began Wednesday in northern Colorado and western Wyoming specifically targeting known "criminal aliens, fugitive aliens and other immigration status violators" in a nationwide attempt to reduce the number of immigrant fugitives living in the U.S. said Carl Rusnok, a regional spokesman for the federal immigration agency.
"The reports of us going to hotels and construction sites in (Steamboat Springs) was inaccurate," he said Friday. "We paid a visit to one off-site construction area but did not make any arrests there."
ICE officials detained 38 people - four women and 34 men - during the three-day, multi-state special operation, including 28 in Summit County, five in Sweetwater and Carbon counties in Wyoming and five in Routt and Moffat counties.
The detainees ranged in age from 20 to 48 and are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Czech Republic.
Four men were detained in Hayden Thursday as the men were driving east from Craig.
Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch said immigration officials handled the investigation, not the Hayden Police Department.
The men originally were contacted around 6:30 a.m. Thursday by a Hayden police officer on suspicion the men had not paid for fuel at a Craig gas station.
"We did assist (immigration officials) Wednesday morning and they ended up taking four people into custody, beyond that, I don't know what they've done," he said. "ICE happened to be in the area when they rolled out. They responded quickly and took over."
Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said he had received a call from immigration officials that they were going to be in the area, though the officials did not say how long.
"I know they did not bring anyone into our jail," he said. "I was alerted, and they called to tell us they would be in the area."
Rusnok said about 60 immigration enforcement teams are working across the nation to reduce the number of fugitives living in the U.S. and that such special operations are not uncommon.
"This is the first time that because of our special teams and the ongoing push to reduce cases, that our backlog of open fugitive alien cases in the country has dropped," he said. "It's a huge accomplishment."
Specialized immigration teams are "trained and dedicated" in identifying and tracking down people who have been convicted of crimes or people who have not abided by a judge's order to leave the country. "Fugitive aliens" are illegal immigrants who fail to show up for an immigration hearing or who remain in the U.S. after a judge orders them to leave the country, Rusnok said.
The 38 detainees are being taken to a detention facility in Aurora where they will be processed and returned to their countries of origin, Rusnok said.
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