When police in Warrenton found 29 Mexicans without papers jammed into a stifling rental truck, they called in the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
To the surprise of the police, the federal officials promptly let the immigrants go.
"It's a matter of funding and manpower," says Chester Moyer, head of the agency's office in St. Louis. "We have no trouble finding the aliens. It's a problem finding enough manpower to process the aliens.
"That's not to say it's the way we like to handle these matters."
The latest such matter began Monday, when the Warrenton police found the truck on a parking lot. Warren County Sheriff Michael Baker said that the truck had held 29 Mexicans, most of them from one family - and that the heat was intense.
For the men and boys jammed in the back, a few containers and the truck's floor served as toilets. A woman and two girls rode up front with the driver.
They apparently crossed the border into Arizona late last week, Moyer said. Many had paid $500 or more to be hustled into the United States and put aboard the truck.
They spent Monday night at the New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis. Ricardo Zaldo, the Mexican consul here, said Wednesday that he had arranged other places for some of the aliens to stay Tuesday night and had helped to exchange their pesos for dollars.
By Wednesday, all had left St. Louis. The truck, a Ryder rental, was retrieved by the company; it had been rented in Arizona.
St. Louis is a crossroads for illegal aliens, especially in the summer, when migrant farm workers are on the move. The Mexicans picked up in Warrenton were among 68 illegal aliens intercepted in the area in the past week, Moyer said.
He called the number typical for this time of year.
Rick Kenney, an Immigration Department spokesman in Washington, said the release of the Mexicans "does not give them legal status to remain in the United States." Some might be picked up later for other offenses and sent home, he said. …