All too often lost in all the conflicting rhetoric about illegal immigration is one persistent bit of nastiness: human trafficking. A major smuggling ring has just been broken up in Arizona, with authorities raiding a large number of "drop houses", arresting 20 so far (more arrests are expected) and detaining 210 illegal immigrants. Suggling illegal immigrants is big business. Authorities allege that the smuggling ring pulled in as much as $130,000 per week. And this is just one of many smuggling rings.
PHOENIX — In a case highlighting this city’s prominent role in the smuggling of illegal immigrants across the border, the authorities conducted a series of raids on Thursday, arresting what they said were the leaders of a ring that helped transport hundreds of people to way stations in Phoenix.
In some ways, it was just a typical day here, where the police regularly discover houses with dozens of people held by smugglers until they can pay their passage from Mexico. In a separate operation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the Maricopa County sheriff here announced the arrests of more than 100 people suspected of being in the country illegally who were on probation for various crimes.
But the raids on Thursday morning, by a task force of state, local and federal officers, provided a glimpse behind what the authorities described as one of the more elaborate operations that bring thousands of people across the border in this state, which has more illegal crossings than any other.
At dawn, officers swarmed houses, mostly in western Phoenix, seizing ledgers, money, weaponry and people suspected of involvement in a major, lucrative cell that controlled the transportation of people from a border town, Naco, to Phoenix.
The authorities made 20 arrests, including those of two Cubans accused of directing the operation. They also detained 210 illegal immigrants and discovered 13 so-called drop houses that were way stations for smuggled immigrants, the police said. In all, the authorities planned to arrest about 75 people, they said.
Authorities say that the smugglers charge around $2,500 per person to bring the illegal into the country. They were running as many as four loads of up to ten illegals per day. Again, this was only one of the rings operating in Arizona – 100 drop houses were discovered last year.