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- 04-20-2012, 10:34 PM #1
TX - Public's help sought to battle human smuggling
April 19, 2012 10:34 PM
McALLEN — Law enforcement officials from the federal, state and local level met Thursday afternoon at the McAllen Border Patrol Station to discuss the number of immigrant stash houses that have been popping up in the area.
After the meeting, the law enforcement officials spoke with the public, asking for their involvement. The message was clear: Report any suspicious activity to a law enforcement agency.
While the public may not want to get involved, thinking that it’s just people looking for a better life in the U.S., the truth is that they are subjected to deplorable conditions and often become victims of other violent crimes, said Rosendo Hinojosa, Border Patrol’s RGV Sector chief.
Hinojosa said that in 2011, authorities found 45 stash houses, prosecuted 49 suspected human smugglers and apprehended 248 illegal immigrants in the RGV Sector.
Those numbers have spiked in 2012, Hinojosa said, thanks in part to heightened vigilance and better coordination among enforcement agencies.
So far this year, authorities have found 84 stash houses, prosecuted 50 suspected human smugglers and apprehended about 1,000 illegal immigrants.
The journey for the immigrants begins with an individual trusting the care of their loved one to a human smuggler who will get him to the U.S., Hinojosa said.
“Don’t be mistaken: This is a business,” he said, adding that the immigrant is stuffed in a bus or other form of transportation and moved to the border. “Don’t trust your loved one to someone that cares more about money than life.”
Once they are over the border, they are crammed by the dozens into small stash houses, where they wait to be transported north before being dropped off just south of the Border Patrol checkpoints, which they must circumvent on foot through harsh terrain.
During the journey, the women may be raped, the immigrants may not be fed or given water, and the conditions of the houses are unsanitary, Hinojosa said.
“We wouldn’t treat animals that way,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Yet human beings are being treated that way.”
In addition to investigations by law enforcement, the public can be a key partner in stopping the criminal enterprise by calling authorities, Hinojosa said.
“If the house was vacant and all of a sudden you have 40 people living in it, there’s something wrong,” Hinojosa said.
When asked about the Palmview rollover where nine immigrants from Mexico were killed, Hinojosa said it was a “tragic incident.”
While human smuggling may be overlooked by individuals thinking it is a harmless crime, in reality it has many victims and large profits, Robinette said.
“We have addressed it as (a criminal enterprise), seizing assets whenever possible in order to disrupt the activities,” he said.
ICE agents will investigate the criminal structure of the organization, working to not only arrest a smuggler but dismantle and prosecute the organization as a whole, Robinette said.
Many times the smuggling is directly connected to transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America, and federal authorities have to work with their international counterparts to target their operations locally, Robinette said.
One Old Vet
Public's help sought to battle human smuggling | mcallen, public, smuggling - TheMonitor.comWe have immigration laws that just need to be enforced.