(Host) Federal law enforcement authorities say they’ve broken up two major alien smuggling rings over the past several months.
As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, authorities say illegal immigration has trickled nearly to a stop since officers from Canada to Korea began arresting ringleaders.
(Sneyd) Agents in Canada and the United States have spent the past year investigating two groups of smugglers.
Tom Anderson, who is U.S. Attorney in Vermont, says the operations were major.
(Anderson) "I think we view it as a large smuggling organization, from what we have seen, historically, at least in the Swanton sector, and this part of the border with Canada.”
(Sneyd) Anderson says illegal aliens had to pay the alleged smugglers as much as ten-thousand dollars apiece to get into the United States.
Some of those aliens were arrested for illegally entering the United States. But authorities were more interested in the smugglers. So, they slowly built cases, using information provided by the aliens.
That led them to a ring in Toronto that smuggled people into the U.S. from South Korea.
And they also found another, based in Montreal, which smuggled people from Central America, Pakistan and India.
In September and October, U.S. officials brought indictments against eleven people who are charged with leading the smuggling operations. One of them is already in the U.S. Authorities are trying to extradite others from Canada and South Korea and are still searching for three more.
Anderson says the arrests have been effective in halting alien smuggling in the stretch of border running through New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.
(Anderson) "Our apprehensions at the border … have dwindled to a trickle, coming southbound. I would say there’s two explanations for that. One is we actually had an impact by these arrests and these indictments. The second is they’re doing it someplace that we haven’t discovered yet. I don’t think the latter is likely. I think Border Patrol’s presence at the border is such that we would know that.”
(Sneyd) Anderson and other officials say hundreds of illegal aliens were arrested as part of the crackdown, which the Justice Department initiated a year-and-a-half ago.
There’s no evidence that the smuggling rings were involved in other criminal operations, such as terrorism.
But Bruce Foucart of Immigration and Customs Enforcement says potential terrorists could take advantage of the rings to get into the United States.
(Foucart) "These organizations pose a national security threat as would-be terrorists, criminals and others who may mean harm to us. These individuals can often access the same routes and use the same methods as smugglers use to gain access to this country.”
(Sneyd) Officials say illegal immigrants were arrested in a wide variety of places near and along the border during the crackdown.
There were also a few arrests at other checkpoints like the one on Interstate 91 near White River Junction.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.
AP Photo/Toby Talbot