Clinton administration officials say they expect more arrests in the breakup of an alien smuggling ring which sent thousands of Latin Americans and Asians into the United States.
The 10-month-old operation surfaced with the arrest this month in Ecuador of Gloria Canales, a 40-year-old Costa Rican woman. The breakup resulted from increased cooperation among Latin American governments and U.S. embassies and agencies concerned with smuggling, the State Department said Tuesday.
Officials also credited U.S. intelligence “assets” in Rome, Mexico City and Bangkok, Thailand. They said the operation underscored how trafficking in illegal immigrants has grown into a widespread and clever business.Added Russ Bergeron of the Immigration and Naturalization Service: “For some of these organizations, smuggling humans has become more profitable than smuggling drugs.”
Officials would not give details on other criminal cases likely to spin out of the operation. Canales’ ring smuggled at least 10,000 people a year, many of them Chinese and Indians, into the United States through Central America, according to reports.
At President Clinton’s direction, the State and Justice departments set up in February a cooperative venture involving overseas posts to catch smugglers of aliens. The arrest in Ecuador was a result, State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said. “It’s a major case that may lead to additional criminal cases. There is an ongoing investigation.”
Canales allegedly used bribery and an extensive network of airline officials, hotel owners and other contacts from Peru and Mexico to India and China to smuggle at least 10,000 people a year into the United States, according to unidentified U.S. officials quoted by The Washington Post.