Six alleged illegal immigrants were arrested Monday night after a brief pursuit in Tampa culminated in an on-campus traffic stop to determine their residency.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Senior Border Patrol Agent Robert Vadasz said the individuals, who claimed to be from Mexico, were arrested and detained for being “illegally present in the U.S.”
The driver, who Vadasz said is also an illegal immigrant, faces pending charges for possibly transporting illegal aliens for profit.
“Illegal aliens are transported by transporters. It’s a way for them not to get apprehended and to avoid immigration status,” Vadasz said. “Those transporters get paid, typically by (the transported). If it’s a smuggling event taken from the southwest border all the way to Florida, it can be ($3,000) to $5,000. If it’s a short trip, say from Tampa to Atlanta or Atlanta to Houston, it’s a couple hundred dollars.”
Vadasz said he began following a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country on Interstate 75 northbound at about 6:15 p.m. The vehicle had an Alabama license plate and held six individuals – two reasons why Vadasz continued his pursuit – who appeared suspicious once he began following them.
“They were obviously nervous at my presence as a border patrol vehicle,” he said. “When I started to follow them, they jumped right off the highway at Fowler, and when I followed them down here, they jumped into the USF campus, and most people don’t come straight from Alabama to USF just to attend class.”
Vadasz said after he followed the vehicle for a couple of laps around Leroy Collins Boulevard, he made a traffic stop and requested backup from University Police (UP).
The vehicle pulled over across from Lot 29B next to the Library at about 7 p.m., where UP Corporal Edward Lutz and two other UP officers arrived at the scene.
“The reason why UP was involved is because border patrol requested police assistance because there was only one officer here from the border patrol, and he just requested assistance because he had six people here,” Lutz said. “It’s just an officer safety issue. This is not a USF case. They just made a wrong turn and turned into campus.”
Vadasz said it is border patrol’s job to monitor highways for alien transporters and smugglers.
“(At) any given time where we’re on the highways or somewhere about, we try to monitor them,” he said. “So it’s pretty common for us to spot a vehicle, follow it and determine whether … there is illegal sufficiency to pull it over and to check the occupants.”
He said the individuals will be given the right to an immigration attorney and hearing.