Pubdate: Fri, 10 Mar 2006
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2006 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Associated Press


ATLANTIC,  IA -- Cass County authorities say they-released two 
Mexican immigrants found with 95 pounds of marijuana because the 
county did not want to pay their medical bills and federal 
immigration official did not have room for them.

Natlvidad Valdovlno, 59, and Javier Ruiz, 49, were stopped Monday on 
Interstate 80 in Iowa after the Cass County Sheriff's Office received 
a complaint that a vehicle was being driven erratically.

Deputies found open containers in the men's van and said one of the 
men was intoxicated. They searched the van and found drugs but also 
noticed both men had cuts, scrapes and bruises and needed medical 
attention. Cass County Sheriff Bill Sage said the charges were 
dropped because the county did not want to cover the medical costs.

Immigration officials had told the Sheriff's Office they couldn't 
take the immigrants and that neither posed a security risk.

"When we got the call, we looked at their history and found no 
previous violations," said Tim Counts, a spokesman for Immigration 
and Customs Enforcement. "We did have a detainer on them, but when 
(the county) dropped the charges, we looked at our priorities."

Counts said about 80 percent of the immigrants the agency houses are 
accused of crimes other than illegal entry. "That leaves us some 
wiggle room, but we usually focus on criminals," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman