A Moffat County Sheriff's deputy discovered a pickup crammed with 20 Hispanic illegal aliens during a routine traffic stop on U.S. Highway 40 near Maybell on Wednesday afternoon.
Sheriff's Deputy Dan Burke pulled over the pickup at about 1:30 p.m. after the driver failed to use a turn signal, Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said.
Sixteen men and four women, two of whom were juveniles, were found in the vehicle. Many of them were lying in the pickup bed covered by blankets. Grinstead said that it appeared as if all of the occupants were in good health.
Grinstead said the pickup might have been headed to the East Coast, steering clear of the major interstates.
Another vehicle was traveling with the truck, but Burke wasn't able to pull it over.
The driver and its occupants were transported to the Moffat County Jail, but they were released into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Wednesday evening, said Sgt. Rick Holford of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office.
Law enforcement can hold suspected illegal aliens for 72 hours, unless they are released to ICE, a government agency that is a branch of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Law enforcement officials cannot take illegal aliens into custody unless they are found in a group, Grinstead said. Individually, illegal aliens can be held only if they are arrested and charged with a crime.
Moffat County Sheriff Sgt. Rick Holford said department officials used to more regularly discover vans filled with illegal aliens passing through Craig, but that trend has slowed.
"For a while, we kept stopping them in Craig," Holford said. "It struck us funny, because we haven't found that for a while."