Suspected Immigrant Smugglers in Colo. Car Wrecks

In a matter of 24 hours, dozens of suspected illegal immigrants were involved in six separate car crashes on icy roads in Colorado, according to police. Immigration officials say the suspected immigrants were being smuggled from Mexico into the United States.

Two additional vehicles -- one carrying 20 suspected illegal immigrants, the other 11 -- were pulled over by authorities on Tuesday but were not involved in wrecks, said the Colorado State Patrol.

"This time of year, it's pretty common to have this type of traffic," said Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Troopers estimate they encounter more than 500 undocumented immigrants weekly on Colorado highways. At this time of year, many Mexicans enter the United States to look for work at the beginning of the growing season.

Rusnok said at least two of the vehicles embroiled in the accidents were headed for Chicago and Florida.

"This is something we investigate seriously and try to get to the smuggling organization responsible," Rusnok said.

Immigration a Hot-Button Issue in State

All told, 80 suspected illegals were taken into custody within a 24-hour period.

The Colorado State Patrol said two vans -- one carrying 16 suspected illegal immigrants, the other carrying 12 -- rolled early Tuesday morning near Brush, Colo., about 80 miles northeast of Denver.

Also early Tuesday morning, another Suburban carrying 10 people rolled over on Interstate 70, about 110 miles east of Denver,

No injuries were reported in those accidents.

Forty-two suspected illegal immigrants were taken into custody on Monday after two separate crashes on I-70 and I-75 in Colorado.

Several of the men involved in the crashes were "voluntarily returned" to Mexico, said Rusnok. Voluntary return is offered to illegal immigrants who don't have criminal records, he added. The drivers of the vehicles suspected of smuggling the men are being held in federal immigration court.

Immigration is a hot-button issue in the state, and several anti-immigration groups are active there, including the Minutemen, Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform and Defend Colorado Now.

Colorado State Sen. Peter Groff is sponsoring two bills that would make smuggling and trafficking a felony. Violators would face five years in prison.

In Washington, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., heads a caucus that has vowed to derail President Bush's guest-worker plan and any legislation that smacks of what he calls amnesty for illegal immigrants.

ABC News' Denver affiliate and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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