Glenwood Springs Police charge van driver with human smuggling
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Police charged a man who crashed a van on Interstate 70 Sunday with three counts of human smuggling.
It’s the first time the Glenwood Springs Police Department has charged anyone under the human smuggling statute, a class three felony.
Police Chief Terry Wilson said police made the determination to charge the driver, Alvaro Sales Jacinto, 28, with the human smuggling counts Monday night.
“There is the potential for further charges as this case develops,” Wilson said.
Sales Jacinto was jailed Sunday after the accident on suspicion of careless driving, driving without a valid license and failure to provide immediate proof of insurance. He is under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.
The van was traveling eastbound on I-70 when it crashed around 7:43 a.m. The accident blocked both westbound lanes for about an hour.
“It apparently caught some slush on the shoulder of the road, skidded broadside, hit the median, flipped, and wound up on its top all the way in the westbound lanes,” Wilson said.
About 10 Hispanic males were sent to the hospital. Two were in critical condition Monday, according to Wilson, but hospital confidentiality laws make it unclear how the men are doing.
The state created the human smuggling law in 2006 to target people transporting illegal immigrants for profit. Wilson and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said it’s a tool local agencies can use against smuggling, but it doesn’t give them the legal authority to enforce federal immigration laws.
They say ICE is typically notified when local authorities contact suspected illegal immigrants. Vallario said his deputies could probably stop vans full of illegal immigrants every day, but there aren’t enough ICE agents or facilities to handle them.
Vallario said his office hasn’t yet applied the human smuggling law. He thinks the statute is a good idea, but said it’s still relatively new, and prosecuting it could pose some challenges. For instance, illegal immigrants who are witnesses to human smuggling probably wouldn’t stick around for several months to testify while a case works its way through the legal system, he said.
“We know we have an immigration problem and that’s a federal issue,” Vallario said. “But when you’re trafficking or smuggling people, that’s criminal, and I think it should be illegal.”
He doesn’t condone the behavior of people who pay human smugglers for transportation, but he said smugglers exploit those people by charging exorbitant prices, crowding people into vehicles and creating dangerous conditions.
Sales Jacinto appeared in court at an advisement hearing Tuesday and was being held on $25,000 bond. He returns to court for formal filing of charges March 12.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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