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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Africans Detained In Breckenridge Co

Summit Daily News for Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper and Frisco Colorado - News

FBI, immigration officials detain African immigrants

CHRISTINE McMANUS
May 19, 2004

SILVERTHORNE - Federal immigration officers and FBI agents detained an unknown number of immigrants from Africa Wednesday morning with the assistance of the Silverthorne Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff's Office.

At about 9 a.m., police cars, unmarked immigrations vehicles and at least two white immigration vans drove into the quiet neighborhood of Blue River Apartments on Adams Avenue behind Sears, west of Highway 9.

Plain-clothed immigration officers and FBI agents began knocking on doors and asking people for their immigration documents.

At least a dozen black immigrants got into large vans with covered, barred windows, bystanders said.

The FBI would not disclose how many people were detained nor where they were taken from their homes in Silverthorne. The FBI's policy is not to discuss any open investigations, said FBI spokesperson Leslie Kopper.

Kopper said this was a joint investigation among multiple federal and local agencies which identified individuals who were in violation of immigration statutes.

With a federal immigration investigation, any arrests would likely be made in federal security offices in Denver, said Silverthorne Police Chief John Patterson.

Patterson said he did not know who was detained nor how many people were detained.

The FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement interviewed multiple people at the town police station throughout the day Wednesday. Some were detained and some were released, Patterson said.

Three bystanders at Blue River Apartments, who did not want to be identified, said the incident was peaceful and professional. They estimated 15-20 people rode away in the vans.

Blue River Apartments property manager Ellen Temby arrived at work at about 10:30 a.m. after residents had already been taken away.

Temby said she initially assumed that officers were checking on people from Mexico. When she learned that African immigrants were detained, she said she was surprised.

"All the African immigrants had Homeland Security documentation and were here legally, to my understanding," Temby said.

"But I do not know much about what happened here this morning because I was not here at the time. No one's told me anything."

Although Temby said she has seen documentation from leasees, she has not met all the residents in the 78-unit complex.

Some residents are from Mauritania and Senegal in northwestern Africa, she said.

Walking by one of the apartments where officers were questioning a resident from Africa, the following was heard.

"You are here because we do not look like regular Americans," said the resident.

"No. There's a lot of people who want to show me documents that look like someone else," the officer said.

Sheriff John Minor said that this was a joint investigation but he did not have any numbers of detainees because his authority does not reach into the realm of immigration regulation.

Minor was at the incident command center at the Silverthorne Town Hall for several hours Wednesday morning.

"This has happened in the past with the INS years ago. But we haven't had anything like this recently," Minor said.

"I am an immigrant from England, and I know that in the 1980s if I didn't have my green card on me at all times, I could be detained."

Oumar Niang, a liaison for the West African community in Summit County, said a cultural event planned on Sunday at the Silverthorne Pavilion will likely be canceled. He will probably hire a lawyer to help any detainees, he said.



Christine McManus can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229 or at cmcmanus@summitdaily.com.

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