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United States v. Cantu

decided: July 22, 1975.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division No. 74 CR 473 ABRAHAM L. MAROVITZ, Judge.

Fairchild, Chief Judge, and Cummings and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sprecher

SPRECHER, Circuit Judge.

The United States has appealed an order suppressing statements taken by agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service after the warrantless arrest of defendants Agapita Cantu, Manuela Rios-Cantu, and Guadalupe Luna and the warrantless search of Cantu's automobile. The only question for review here is whether the agents acted within their authority. The district court, believing the agents did not, granted a suppression order. We reverse.


On April 24, 1974, an informant told Ralph Traslavina, an INS criminal investigator, that Agapita Cantu and two companions were preparing to transport illegal Mexican aliens to the Midwest. The informant provided Traslavina these details. Three United States citizens, Cantu, her daughter and a male companion, planned to drive four to six Mexican aliens from the Texas-Mexican border to Aurora, Illinois. They would use a green 1969 Dodge station wagon with a license-applied-for sticker and they would take Highway 55, exiting at Highway 30 in Illinois.

For the next two days news of the defendants' progress preceded them. Between April 24 and April 26, the informant telephoned Traslavina three to five times. All his messages confirmed the details he had originally disclosed and provided the location of defendants' automobile as it moved northward on Highway 55. Traslavina also received a telegram from INS authorities in Texas. They independently verified the presence of defendants' car near the Mexican border.

Finally, on April 26, Traslavina with other INS agents arrested the defendants. Late on the 25th they had taken up a position on Highway 55 south of Aurora and waited for Cantu's party to pass. At 6:00 a.m. on the 26th, they saw the green Dodge station wagon approach. They stopped it and identified themselves. The agents first warned Cantu and the two individuals sitting in the front seat of the automobile with her, Manuela Cantu and Guadalupe Luna, that they were suspected of violating federal immigration laws. They then arrested them, taking into custody their six passengers as well, all of whom were Mexican citizens illegally in the United States.

The defendants were indicted for knowingly transporting within the United States by automobile an alien not lawfully entitled to enter or reside within the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a) (2).*fn1 All moved promptly to suppress as evidence any statements or confessions made by the occupants of Cantu's automobile as well as all persons and papers seized from it. They argued that the warrantless arrests were unlawful, lacking sufficient probable cause.

The district court granted the defendants' motion. The agents, the court believed, had sufficient advance notice to obtain arrest and search warrants. Probable cause attached sometime on April 24, two days before the arrests were made. Consequently, all evidence obtained in the search of Cantu's automobile, Mexican aliens, as well as any statements made by them, the court ordered suppressed. This appeal followed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3731.*fn2


The government contends the warrantless arrests of defendants were authorized. 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(4) specifically provides that an INS agent shall have the power without warrant:

To make arrests for felonies which have been committed and which are cognizable under any law of the United States regulating the admission, exclusion, or expulsion of aliens, if he has reason to believe that the person so arrested is guilty of such felony and if there is likelihood of the person escaping before a warrant can be obtained for his arrest, but the person arrested shall be taken without unnecessary delay before the nearest available officer empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the laws of the United States. Any such employee shall also have the power to execute any warrant or other process issued by an officer under any law regulating the admission, exclusion, or expulsion of aliens.

The government urges that the arrests met the two requirements which the statute sets for a lawful warrantless arrest: (1) the INS agents had reason to believe a felony was committed, and (2) there was a likelihood of defendants ...

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