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Tip results in apprehension of 19 migrants

By Julia Bishop
Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 9:38 AM PST

"One person's call can make a difference."

That's all it took Monday to kick off an operation that netted 19 undocumented migrants and four vehicles, said Jose L. Maheda, a spokesperson for the U.S. Border Patrol in Nogales.

Disrupt Team

An anonymous call lead the Disrupt Team, a group of Border Patrol agents that work in a plain clothes to make their first such bust in Santa Cruz County this year.

The undocumented persons were staying in a rented home in Rio Rico. "After receiving the call," Maheda said, "the agents went out and conducted surveillance. They used technology and generally watched the comings and goings on."

The agents apprehended the group and took them to the Nogales BP station for processing.

"After they were taken to the station," Maheda said, "we identified them. Unfortunately, the smugglers weren't there. It seems they got away this time.

"There were no arrests. The aliens asked for and were given voluntary departure," he said. "That means basically they were escorted to Mexico."

This case underscores that "One person's call can make a difference," Maheda said.

Encouraging people to call in, Maheda said that often times looking for situations like this can be tricky.

Pay attention

"We found that in this type of operation," he said, "it is common for the smugglers to rent property under a fictitious name to elude identification from investigation. In this case, I'm assuming the owner of the property had no idea this was going on. This house in particular was managed by a local property management company."

The owners of the vehicles that were seized have the option to petition to get their vehicles returned but that they would have to undergo a petition hearing at the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, Maheda explained.

"People in their neighborhood really can make a difference," said Maheda. "We found in the past that groups like this try and cover they're tracks. They'll hide garbage in the house to try and hide their numbers.

"Generally they'll clean up, so it doesn't look like they've spent two days in the desert. I would advise anyone who sees someone in their neighborhood who doesn't belong, or sees a suspicious person, persons or vehicle, they should call us."

Tips can be made by calling 1-800-USBP-HELP or 377-6000.