TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On Friday, February 23rd, a black painted bus with a Dutchman Tree Farms logo and a U.S. DOT ID linked to the business was pulled over in Traverse City due to erratic driving.

After the driver received a traffic violation citation for improper lane usage from Grand Traverse County, deputies called the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when the driver’s documents didn’t add up.

Where were the Traverse City bus occupants taken?

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Subsequently, about five hours after the initial traffic stop, 19 undocumented occupants were transported to the Sault Ste. Marie Border Patrol Station where they were processed and served with Notice To Appear documents for a removal hearing.

When those hearings will happen is unknown. According to a USA Today article from December of last year, the backlog in the nation’s immigration courts surpassed 3 million cases in November of last year with many individuals not having to appear in court for years.

Illegal immigrants seen at Upper Peninsula Meijer.

According to the SooLeader, the CBP cannot provide information about the whereabouts of the undocumented individuals, however photos reportedly circulating on social media the same day show some of them, all appearing to be young males, in front of a Meijer in Sault Ste. Marie.

Local law enforcement agencies and city leaders had received minimal information about the incident, including specifics about the transportation and processing of the undocumented non-citizens according to the SooLeader.

Lack of Transparency between border patrol and local law enforcement.

Chippewa County Sheriff Mike Bitnar, contacted by CBP about the use of his jail, confirmed that as of Monday morning, there are no undocumented non-citizens from Friday’s processing in their system.

Lt. Mark Giannunzio of the Michigan State Police Eighth District stated that Post 82 in Sault Ste. Marie was never in communication with CBP.

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Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Brian Chapman said that city police received a courtesy call from CBP shortly before the individuals were released, characterizing it as more of a professional courtesy than a legal obligation. He has no information about whether the individuals left the area or remained in the city after processing but said that he had heard that some of them got on a bus.

Chapman blames the lack of transparency between CBP, local law enforcement and city officials on the CBP being “legally limited” on what they can provide information on.

Tree Farm still not responding to questions. Wexford County Sheriff isn’t either.

Michigan News Source attempted to get a comment from the Dutchman Tree Farms for a fourth time today and they would not respond to our request for comment.

We also reached out to the Wexford County Sheriff’s Office, as the tree farm’s main business is located in Manton. We asked if they would be doing any kind of investigation into the tree farm business to verify that their workers are legally able to work for them. Sheriff Trent Taylor did not return our request for comment.

For the fourth part of this story, click here.