Published May 21 2010
Illegal laborers detained in OakesThe U.S. Border Patrol detained 32 farm laborers in Oakes, N.D., Wednesday after they acknowledged they were in the country illegally, a Border Patrol spokesman said.
The detentions took place after the Oakes Police Department made a traffic stop on May 14 and asked the Border Patrol for help with Spanish translation.
“Our border agents questioned the subjects and discovered these individuals were here illegally,” said Brent Everson, a supervisory Border Patrol agent based in Grand Forks.
At least some of the men were Mexican nationals, Everson said.
The men arrived in town roughly two weeks ago to help plant onions at Four Star Ag, a farm outside of Oakes, owner Barry Vculek said. He lined up the workers through a labor contractor in Oregon.
“I was under the impression they were U.S. citizens,” he said.
Vculek said he needed extra workers for the labor-intensive task of planting onion bulbs by hand, which his farm opted for over seeds this year.
“We needed quite a few workers,” he said. “I talked to Job Service, and we didn’t get a single call.”
Oakes Police Chief Mark Roberts said his department made a registration and erratic driving stop involving some of the men who were eventually detained by the Border Patrol. He said his department contacts the Border Patrol several times each year to help interpret for people involved in traffic or criminal stops.
“This is not very uncommon at all,” he said. “Quite often down here we need help with translation. Anytime we do not understand an individual, we always contact the Border Patrol.”
Roberts would not say how often these exchanges result in Border Patrol detentions.
He said the detentions followed a second traffic stop Wednesday by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, which also requested help with translating from the Border Patrol.
“It basically spawned into a Border Patrol case after that,” Roberts said.
Everson, of the Border Patrol, said the number of individuals detained simultaneously in Oakes was relatively high.
“I would consider it unusual for this area,” he said. “It’s not something often seen by the Border Patrol.”
The men will remain in detention and will be placed in removal proceedings.
“We maintain a valuable partnership with state and local agencies,” Everson said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529