[Stop-traffic] News/US: Federal Agents Break Up Alien-Smuggling Ring

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Federal Agents Break Up Alien-Smuggling Ring
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Sep 05 2000 - 19:17:27 EDT


                   Federal Agents Break Up Alien-Smuggling Ring

RTos 8/4/00 9:42 PM

Copyright 2000 Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.
The following news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole
or in part, without the prior written consent of Reuters Ltd.

     By Jane Sutton
      MIAMI (Reuters) - Federal agents have broken up an alien smuggling
ring that ferried indentured workers from China through the Caribbean and
into the United States using doctored Japanese passports, officials said on
Friday.
      Six alleged smugglers, known among Chinese as "snakeheads," were
arrested and indicted on charges of conspiracy and alien smuggling, said
James Goldman assistant director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service's Miami district.
      A seventh, alleged ringleader Winson Zhang, was a fugitive facing
similar charges, he said.
      Immigration agents became suspicious when they intercepted an unusual
number of Chinese nationals entering Miami International Airport from the
Caribbean with fraudulent or forged Japanese passports, Goldman said.
      In the last 18 months, 653 such passengers have been detained by
immigration authorities in Miami.
      Eight months ago, U.S. undercover agents working in Miami, Jamaica,
the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hong Kong and New York infiltrated the
loosely knit ring by portraying themselves as willing smugglers of any
contraband, Goldman said.
      "We basically took control of their smuggling ring," he said.
      The smuggled passengers, mostly women from China's Fujian province,
paid $50,000 and up for passage to New York City on a series of flights
that often went through Hong Kong, Vietnam or Laos to Europe and then to
various Caribbean islands and into the United States via Miami, Goldman
said.
      They traveled in small groups of three or four, posing as Japanese
tourists.
      The Caribbean route apparently was chosen for its proximity to Miami,
a gateway into the United States, although the Chinese were headed to New
York City, Goldman said.
      Many Chinese immigrants borrow money from friends and relatives to
make a down payment, then find jobs in New York's large Chinese immigrant
community and work for years as virtual slaves to repay their passage,
Goldman said.
      Although smugglers shepherd illegal immigrants into Florida from
numerous nations, the INS targeted those who smuggled Chinese citizens
because of the extraordinarily high fees, and the kidnappings and beatings
meted out to those who are unable to repay the debt, Goldman said.
      "It's a high-profit industry," he said. "If you don't pay, there's a
problem."
      The recent deaths of illegal Chinese immigrants who suffocated in
shipboard containers and closed trucks also "highlighted the urgency of
ending operations involving the inhumane treatment of people," Goldman
said.
      The United States issues few tourist visas to Chinese citizens, so
Japanese passports were used because they would arouse less suspicion
because most Japanese do not need visas to enter as tourists, he said.
      Many of those brought in by the smugglers have applied for political
asylum, he said.

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