January 1998 Volume 5 Number 1
Border Enforcement. The GAO issued a 101-page report in December that concluded the INS has no effective means of determining whether border control strategies such as Gatekeeper are effective in deterring illegal immigration. Since 1994, the INS has spent $2.3 billion on border control. The number of Border Patrol agents has been doubled in that time.
The report notes that smuggling fees have increased, but evidence from Mexicans attempting entry, as well as from employers and workers in labor markets in which unauthorized workers are hired, suggest that stepped-up border control operations have not deterred foreigners from attempting illegal entry.
The INS responded that it has definitely slowed illegal entries in the four areas in which Border Patrol agents are concentrated, but that it does not yet know how these border control efforts have affected movements over the entire US border. The INS had a 14-foot wall built to separate the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, increasing the portion of the border with steel walls and chain-link and barbed-wire fences to 62 miles.
The chief of the US Drug Enforcement Agency announced in December that the US will try "to stop drug smuggling into the United States across the Mexican-U.S. border in the next five years--substantially stop it." An estimated 70 percent of illegal drugs consumed in the US enter via Mexico. Some analysts caution that it may be difficult to check the 82 million cars, three million trucks and 230 million people who cross the Mexican-U.S. border each year in a manner that prevents the entry of drugs and facilitates commerce.
In July 1997, the INS and local police conducted a joint operation in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, arresting 432 illegal immigrants and detaining some US citizens of Hispanic origin until they could produce papers. Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods issued a 34-page report that called the actions of the INS and local police "outrageous." A group of Hispanic US citizens and legal immigrants filed a $35 million suit against the city of Chandler. In November 1997, INS Commissioner Meissner promised to investigate INS participation in joint actions with city police.
The INS received 230 complaints involving allegations of physical abuse by INS agents in 1997, down from about 350 in 1996. Total grievances against INS were up to about 1,800 in 1997 from 1,553 in 1996.
In Ohio, a federal judge prohibited the Ohio Highway Patrol from questioning motorists about their immigration status and seizing immigration papers during routine traffic stops. The Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee filed a lawsuit in 1996, asserting that the Ohio Highway Patrol singled out Hispanics for traffic infractions and then questioned those stopped about their immigration status.
A report in the Dallas Morning News told of smuggling networks to bring Asian illegal immigrants into the US via Central America. The immigrants paid up to $20,000 to $50,000 to reach Central America. A 1996 US government study estimate that about 50,000 Chinese migrants are smuggled into the US annually--making it a $3.5 billion a year industry. One of the hubs for smuggling is Suriname, which has a Chinese population of 10 percent, allowing the Chinese immigrants to remain undetected while they await transit to the US. Suriname is also used because of lax immigration controls.
Labor Market. The Justice Department in mid-December announced its first indictment under a provision of the 1996 immigration law of a US employer charged with smuggling workers into the US.. The nine persons indicted allegedly charged Mexicans $900 to $1000 each to be smuggled into the US from Queretero, Mexico to a 100-employee T-shirt manufacturer, the Atlantic Finishing factory in Trenton, Georgia.
The president of Atlantic Finishing, who was among those indicted, allegedly recruited illegal Mexican workers in a Georgia restaurant and launched the network that has brought Mexicans to the factory since 1991. The personnel managers at Atlantic Finishing helped the workers to falsely complete I-9 forms.
The smuggling ring was discovered when a van containing illegal immigrants was stopped in New Mexico. The US Attorney said the case represented the first time that "we have taken the entire span--from the interior of Mexico to interior United States factories;" drivers, lookouts at the border, safe houses, personnel managers and the president of the factory. The case, he continued, offers "a remarkable insight into how the demand created by an American manufacturing company for low-wage workers will induce Mexican nationals to smuggle their countrymen" to the US.
The INS on November 24, 1997 apprehended 100 unauthorized Mexican workers in raids at four Sherwood Forest Farms sites around Centralia, Washington, after most of the company's 1997 work was completed. Sherwood Forest Farms employs about 450 workers on a seasonal basis to produce holiday wreaths, garlands and centerpieces.
On December 16, 1997, the INS apprehended 30 unauthorized workers in two potato packing sheds near Rexburg, Idaho. Since January, more than 300 unauthorized workers have been apprehended in the area, most during raids on 19 sheds this summer. Dave Smith, president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, said that six potato packers have requested 500 H-2B foreign workers. Also in December, the INS apprehended 45 day laborers waiting for jobs northwest of Cincinnati and 120 workers packing fruit and vegetables for a wholesaler in South Philadelphia.
The Los Angeles Times on December 10, 1997 reported that Mexican drug cartels are taking advantage of the spread of unauthorized migrants into the midwest to distribute drugs throughout the region. Judge Carol Egly of Des Moines says that meatpackers who hire Mexican workers create the infrastructure for drug gangs in Iowa. The director of the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation says "our greatest problem today is illegal aliens and drugs."
Detentions. The INS in October 1997 had 12,500 foreigners in detention, down from 13,500 in September 1997. About half were in state and local jails. Immigration advocates complain that foreigners who arrive at US airports with false or no documents and apply for asylum may wind up far away from lawyers and support organizations that could provide assistance.
California Governor Wilson ordered the Department of Corrections to review the cases of 25,000 unauthorized foreigners in California prisons to determine how many of them might be subject to stiff new terms under federal laws barring deported criminal noncitizens from re-entering the United States. According to the governor, 85 percent of the foreigners convicted in state courts and imprisoned in California reportedly return to the state within a year of their deportations. Federal prosecutors in fiscal year 1996 filed cases against 2,198 noncitizens who illegally re-entered the United States along the Southwest border after deportation.
The INS reported in October 1997 that 40 percent of the Mexicans deported to Mexico had been convicted of drug crimes in the US.
Jodi Wilgoren, "Company, 9 People Indicted in Alleged Immigrant Ring," Los Angeles Times, December 23, 1997. Tod Robberson, "Corridor of Hope: Asian migrants employing Central America as underground railway to US," Dallas Morning Times, December 21, 1997. Warren Cornwall, "INS agents raid warehouses," Idaho Falls Post Register, December 17, 1997. Richard Serrano, "Mexican Drug Cartels Target US Heartland," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1997. General Accounting Office. Illegal Immigration: Southwest Border Strategy Results Inconclusive; More Evaluation Needed. GAO/GGD-98-21, Dec. 11. http://www.gao.gov/daybook/971211.htm