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26 Chinese Arrested After Smugglers Flee

<i> Associated Press</i>

Border Patrol agents arrested 26 undocumented Chinese immigrants who had been abandoned by smugglers after authorities spotted their van near the border.

The illegal immigrants--23 men and three women--apparently had not eaten in three days, and 13 of them were found eating in a restaurant when Border Patrol agents began rounding them up Friday morning.

Some had stopped in front of the Jacumba Health Spa and began gesturing to restaurant workers and customers that they were hungry.

“My boss finally broke down and said, ‘I’m going to feed them,’ ” said waitress Lina Bursfield. “He made them sandwiches, hamburgers and french fries.”

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Border Patrol agents allowed the restaurant to feed the other illegal immigrants as well before they were all taken to the Immigration and Naturalization Service detention center in El Centro.

Agents had seen the smugglers’ blue and white van earlier in the day just north of the international border. When the smugglers saw the agents, they made a U-turn and headed back south toward the border.

Agents found the van abandoned 200 yards north of the border. Later that day, they received a phone call about possible illegal immigrants on Old Highway 80.

The immigrants said they came from Fujian province in China.

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Officials did not know where the Chinese were headed or how they got to North America. A record number of Chinese have illegally entered the United States in recent years, often traveling by boat.


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