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Eight found in Lake Geneva house could be deported

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Kayla Bunge
August 23, 2008
— Eight people are facing deportation after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and Lake Geneva police found 42 people in a house under construction.

A neighbor in the Stone Ridge subdivision on the city’s northeast side called police about 9:30 p.m. July 29 because she saw seven vehicles drive up to the house on South Stone Ridge Drive.


“It was odd because the house is under construction,” said Marsella Aguilar. “They kept fiddling with the keypad on the garage door. I thought maybe they belonged there because they got in.”


According to police reports:


When police arrived, they noticed the door to the basement of the house was ajar. In the kitchen, they found a family praying.


Police also found people in each of the bedrooms.


Police counted 42 people in the house with sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and their belongings in plastic bags. The people all appeared to be Hispanic.


The Rev. Rogelio Gonzalez, 41, Arlington Heights, Ill., identified himself as the leader of the group and the pastor of their church.


He told police he brought the people to the house “because God told him to.”


Gonzalez told police the group previously had been at Silver Lake and that “there was a calling from God” that took them to the house. He said he got into the house because “his wife had the Bible, and the Bible told her to page through (it) and gave her the combination to the garage …”


The group only planned to stay for the night and leave in the morning, Gonzalez told police.


He told police he knew it was wrong to be in the house but that “this was God’s plan.”


Police contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because they had suspicions about Gonzalez’s story. They thought it might have been an immigration, transportation or smuggling situation.


Immigration officials arrived about 12:15 a.m. July 30 and interviewed each member of the group.


“We interviewed everybody, and most of the people were in the U.S. legally,” said ICE spokesman Tim Counts.


“They were either citizens or had green cards.”


But officials identified eight people whose immigration status was questionable.


Lake Geneva police cited Gonzalez for trespassing, and Walworth County sheriff’s deputies escorted the group to the Illinois state line.


Neighbors were curious about the situation.


“It was odd that they picked that house,” Aguilar said. “It’s not like they were wandering around the neighborhood. They went straight to that house.”


Counts said the situation was a little strange.


“We can’t vouch as to the veracity of the claim that they got the combination to get in from God,” he said, “but it looks like it was a retreat that had gone awry or off track or was waylaid.”



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