Skip to content

Bus carrying 19 undocumented non-citizens sent to Sault for processing

Bus pulled over Friday for erratic driving near Traverse City; 19 occupants were sent to Sault Ste. Marie Border Patrol Station, where they were served with Notices To Appear

A bus transporting 19 undocumented non-citizens was redirected to Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, triggering a lot of discussion among locals who saw numerous photos of the individuals shared on social media.

Here is what SooLeader has confirmed about the incident.

On Friday, Feb. 23, U.S. Border Patrol was contacted by the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s office to assist after a bus transporting 19 undocumented non-citizens was pulled over by deputies for erratic driving, according to a statement released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Detroit office.

The person behind the wheel of the bus was unable to produce a U.S. driver’s license but presented deputies with a Mexican voter registration card.

Subsequently, the 19 undocumented non-citizens were transported to the Sault Ste. Marie Border Patrol Station where they were processed and served a Notice To Appear. The individuals will now be subject to immigration removal proceedings.

A spokesperson for CBP told SooLeader he does not have information about where the 19 individuals went after processing was complete. According to CBP, additional information cannot be released due to an ongoing investigation.

Pictures were posted to social media Friday night of several undocumented non-citizens standing in the entryway of Meijer in Sault Ste. Marie. The photos sparked many questions but few answers.

Local law enforcement agencies and city leaders were provided very little information about the incident, including the transporting and processing of the undocumented non-citizens.

Chippewa County Sheriff Mike Bitnar was among those contacted about the bus.

"Customs and Border Protection here in the Sault contacted me to see if we had any cells available, if they needed to house any of them after they were processed," Bitnar said. "As of Monday morning, there are no undocumented non-citizens from Friday's processing in our system."

Lt. Mark Giannunzio, Michigan State Police Eighth District Public Information Officer, told SooLeader that Post 82 in Sault Ste. Marie was never in communication with CBP.

Sault Ste. Marie City Police Chief Wes Bierling directed all questions to City Manager, Brian Chapman.

"City police got a call from CBP shortly before they were being released," Chapman said. "I recognize that as more of a professional courtesy than anything else. I don't know if they have to inform us but it was more of a 'heads up.'"

Chapman said he has no idea if all the people on the bus left the area after processing, or if any stuck around the city.

"I heard some got on a bus," he said. "Some got released. I don't know the specifics. I don't know how many were involved."

As for transparency and open communication between CBP, local law enforcement and city officials, Chapman said he understands there are some limitations.

"Can't necessarily say I am satisfied with the transparency because it is a law enforcement organization so they are legally limited on what they can provide information on," Chapman said. "Could there be more transparency? Maybe. But are there legal issues that complicate that? Probably."