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Colorado troopers round up immigrants trying to enter tunnel

The Associated Press

SILVERTHORNE, Colorado- State Troopers and a search and rescue team rounded up nine illegal immigrants who were trying to walk through the world's highest vehicular tunnel after their sport utility vehicle broke down.

Trooper Justin Mullins was called to the 11,112-foot (3,334-meter)-high tunnel Saturday afternoon when the group of Mexican nationals was seen trying to enter the tunnel on foot, said Master Trooper Ron Watkins.

The six men and three women fled when Mullins approached, running down a steep embankment into a wooded area where the snow was six feet deep, said Watkins.

Mullins noted the immigrants, ages 17 to 34, were wearing light shirts and blue jeans and he called the Summit County Search and Rescue team.

Together with troopers they found the group after about three hours and took them to the sheriff's office, where they were given warm clothes and fed. A medical team examined them and all were in good health.

Watkins said the group's spokesman said they had left the state of Chiapas, Mexico by bus seven to ten days ago. Their homes were destroyed by one of last year's hurricanes and that they had lost everything. They decided to make the trip to the United States and join relatives in South Carolina.

After being dropped off by the bus, they hitched a ride and then pooled their money and bought an SUV. It broke down near the tunnel.

The patrol said it was turning the group over to immigration officials.

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