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Consulate questions deportations
January 30, 2007

Operation Wrangler, a program launched Jan. 22 by Gov. Rick Perry to combat drug trafficking and human smuggling, is responsible for the questionable and possibly illegal deportation of illegal immigrants in Denton County, Fort Worth, Weatherford and Marshall, officials with the Mexican Consulate of Dallas said Monday.

Written by Sergio Chapa, Dallas Morning News

Operation Wrangler, a program launched Jan. 22 by Gov. Rick Perry to combat drug trafficking and human smuggling, is responsible for the questionable and possibly illegal deportation of illegal immigrants in Denton County, Fort Worth, Weatherford and Marshall, officials with the Mexican Consulate of Dallas said Monday.

The Consulate believes 33 of 47 men, women and children held over the weekend at a federal immigration center in Dallas were profiled by police, said spokesman Eduardo Rea Falcon. The 47 were stopped for traffic violations, asked for immigration papers and handed over to federal officials for deportation, he said.

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"It's illegal to ask for papers," Mr. Rea said of local law enforcement officials. "The only ones who can determine immigration status are immigration officials."

Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for the Texas governor's office, said Operation Wrangler expands earlier efforts to control crime along the border and does not target illegal immigrants.

Ms. Cesinger said the program uses intelligence shared among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to disrupt drug traffickers and human smugglers. It involves 90 sheriff's offices and 133 police departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other state and federal agencies.

Ms. Cesinger said officials could not disclose which agencies in North Texas are participating.

"If we give out a list, then the integrity of the operation would be compromised," she said.

Michael Ortiz, a spokesman for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, said that his agency is participating but that no illegal immigrants were arrested or handed over to federal officials as part of an increase in highway patrols Jan. 21-28. He said his agency would receive reimbursement to have nine deputies patrol area highways.

"We recovered five stolen vehicles, made threes arrests ... and issued several citations but did not find any drugs, smugglers or aliens," he said.

Jean Dark, a DPS spokeswoman in Tyler, said state troopers detained 13 of the immigrants in two cars during a routine traffic stop outside Marshall early Monday. One car was following too closely, and neither had working license plate lights.

No state charges were filed in the case, but Ms. Dark said that state troopers referred the group to immigration officials.

Ms. Dark said a state trooper can use information obtained during a traffic stop as probable cause to call immigration officials to the scene.

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