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March 2000, Volume 7, Number 2

INS: Border, Smuggling

Border. The Border Patrol arrested 88,196 migrants in the first 17 days of January 2000, up from 70,860 over the same period in 1999. In FY99 and in FY98, about 1.5 million migrants were apprehended.

As customary, many Mexicans returned to Mexico in December for the holidays and then went back to work in the United States in January. Legal migrants filled planes and buses. Unauthorized migrants were apprehended in record numbers in Arizona. The 26-mile Agua Prieta-Douglas Arizona area, patrolled by 500 Border Patrol agents, averaged almost 1,000 apprehensions a day in January 2000, with a record 3,128 apprehensions on January 13, 2000.

More migrants are also being caught presenting counterfeit identification, or that of another person, bought or rented for $50 to $200. Most are returned to Mexico. In the Nogales area, 2,720 foreigners presented false documents in 1998 and 3,782 in 1999. Douglas mayor Ray Borane, who favors a guest worker program, complained that "Douglas has become a garrison for a federal force fighting an immigration war."

An unauthorized migrant apprehended near Indio, California delivered a baby girl in a Border Patrol van in mid-January. The baby was a US citizen at birth.

In the mountains and deserts east of San Diego, there continue to be confrontations between local residents and Border Patrol agents, as migrants attempting illegal entry come that way to avoid the fences and lights near San Diego. In the sparsely populated Mountain Empire region east of San Diego (8,600 residents), suits have been filed against the Border Patrol, which expanded from 60 to 320 agents, for interfering with residents going about their daily business.

Residents complain that agents enter private properties unannounced, leave livestock gates open, pull over motorists unnecessarily and harass female drivers with questions. The INS counters that some residents are engaged in illegal activities, noting that 46 area residents have been arrested for trafficking in drugs and eight for migrant smuggling.

Federal law gives Border Patrol agents the authority to enter private land without a warrant within 25 miles of the international border. Agents may "board and search . . . any conveyance, or vehicle, and within a distance of 25 miles from any such external boundary, to have access to private lands, but not dwellings, for the purpose of patrolling the border to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States."

Three Mexican men pleaded guilty in US District Court in January 2000 to smuggling 25 unauthorized migrants through mountains in eastern San Diego County; eight died after being caught in a snowstorm.

The Border Patrol is having difficulty hiring and keeping agents. About 53,000 persons applied to become agents in FY99; 1,100 were hired. Turnover was so high that the Border Patrol added a net of only 369 agents, short of the 1,000-a-year increase ordered by Congress. About 38 percent of Border Patrol agents in 1999 had a college degree. Border Patrol agents who begin working between January and September 2000 will receive a $2,000 bonus; their base pay is about $30,000 a year.

Algerians. The arrest of several Algerians suspected of trying to enter the US from Canada in December 1999 to commit terrorist acts continued to reverberate. The US charged Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested in Seattle in December 1999; five others were arrested in the US and Canada.

A Canadian judge commented that one of the Algerians arrested in Canada in January 2000 should have been deported. Mokhtar Haouari arrived in 1993 with a false French passport and applied for asylum. His application was rejected, but he appealed for years and was allowed to stay in Canada even though his appeals failed because Canada stopped deporting Algerians to Algeria in 1997.

The House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing, "Terrorist Threats to the United States," in January 2000 that featured witnesses reporting that "Canada has failed to crack down on terrorist organizations operating within its territory." Canadian laws, according to witnesses, allow "terrorist groups" to openly raise money. The INS is supposed to develop an automated system to track entries and exits to and from the US by March 30, 2001.

The chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), said that the arrests were a "loud wake-up call" to implement Section 110 of the IIRIRA, which would create an automated entry-exit system. For more information: />
There are about 300 Border Patrol and 1,200 US customs agents on the 4,000-mile US-Canadian border and 7,400 Border Patrol and 2,000 US customs agents on the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border. Camionetas, or "little buses," are vans that carry nine to 15 passengers, usually Latino immigrants who are familiar with informal transportation systems from their countries of origin. Drivers tend to be Spanish-speaking immigrants like the vast majority of their passengers who take their customers, taxi-style, right to their doorsteps. There are estimated to be 14,000 US-based camionetas and they are typically not regulated.

Smuggling. Migrants arriving in the US in Arizona usually are transported by van to jobs in the eastern part of the United States. Often, seats are removed in order to fit more migrants into the van; the result is tragedy in the event of an accident. A van taking 17 unauthorized workers from Chiapas and Oaxaca to Kentucky crashed in New Mexico in December 1999, killing 13. The driver was killed; the survivors said they knew where they were being taken, making it hard to determine if an employer had requested the workers.

Many vans drive from Tucson to Denver and then take Interstate 80 east. The INS detained 1,700 migrants who were found in vans in Nebraska and Iowa in 1999. Most agree to "voluntary departure" and are taken to the border by the federal Justice Prisoner Alien Transportation System.

Migrants have begun to show up in shipping containers at West Coast ports. Three of the 18 Chinese in a 40-foot cargo container that arrived in Seattle on a ship from Hong Kong in January 2000 were found dead; two unauthorized Chinese waiting nearby were also arrested. Many smugglers are putting Chinese in canvas-topped containers for the two- to three-week trip across the Pacific. The INS said that Chinese were smuggled into the US in cargo containers at least 14 times in 1999, and 50 people were found in containers in Los Angeles ports in January 2000.

Shipping companies are not permitted to open sealed containers and look for contraband, but they have pledged to work with law enforcement to use heat sensors and other devices to detect people in cargo containers. Government agencies and shippers agreed to cooperate to investigate the authenticity of export companies. In Long Beach, the busiest US port, some 5,000 ships, most from Asia, unload more than four million cargo containers a year.

Smugglers require migrants sent in cargo containers to pay $750 to $1,500 up front and another $25,000 to $30,000 after arrival in the US. In many cases, the migrants become indentured servants in the US, promising future wages to repay the smuggling debt.

The US Coast Guard reported that Chinese smugglers and migrants are becoming more defiant, there has been an increase in the number of attacks and confrontation to avoid being taken into custody: "As smuggling in human cargo becomes more lucrative, the propensity for violence has risen, and in addition to the smugglers using force, the migrants have become more willing to jeopardize life and limb."

In the past nine months, the INS has sent back to China 872 migrants who were picked up by the Coast Guard. China reports that 9,129 migrants were intercepted leaving China in 1999, and 925 smugglers arrested. For centuries, China has tried to control emigration. The last imperial dynasty prohibited it, fearing that once abroad Chinese would plot to overthrow the regime.

One of Berkeley, California's largest landlords, Lakireddy Bali Reddy, was charged with using fraudulent visa applications to bring Indian citizens into the US to work at his restaurants and apartment buildings. A girl cleaning one of Reddy's buildings died in November 1999 and her sister said that her parents sold her to Reddy in India.

Reddy was charged with importing migrants "for the purpose of prostitution and other immoral purposes" and of encouraging aliens to enter and reside in the United States illegally. Reddy came to the US in 1970 to study engineering at the University of California-Berkeley, and amassed $70 million in real estate holdings. The girls were admitted with H-4 visas as children of a couple--who were not their parents—who entered the US with H-1B visas to work at Active Tech Solutions, a software company owned Reddy's son.

In January 2000, the INS arrested 40 H-1B workers from India at a US Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; all were soon freed. The INS said that the 40 had valid visas, but that they were fraudulently obtained by two Houston-based companies that had a subcontract agreement the company hired by the Air Force to do computer work; the workers were not working where the visas specified they would. Critics said that the INS should have gone after the two companies, not the 40 workers.

Sanctions. In August 1997, the INS apprehended 117 illegal Mexican and Guatemalan workers, including several children, who had been sent to Chesapeake Display & Packaging Co. by the Jacksonville branch of AccuStaff—the workers did packaging and assembly-line work. AccuStaff, a branch of Career Horizons, based in Woodbury, New York, admitted in December 1999 that it had altered I-9 forms to make the workers appear to be authorized for employment. The firm faces fines of up to $500,000.

The Blue Mountain Stone quarry in Colorado was fined $150,000 in January 2000 for employing unauthorized workers; the owner was also sentenced to four months home detention.

An INS raid on January 21, 2000 resulted in the seizure of over one million fake documents, including Social Security cards and driver's licenses. The seizure was related to a 1998 Operation Fine Print, in which 11 people were arrested and pleaded guilty in federal court.

The INS continues to slowly expand the Basic Pilot, which allows employers to use automated systems to verify the Social Security and alien registration numbers of newly hired workers in California (810 sites); Texas (367); New York(65); Florida(1,175); Nebraska(29); and Illinois (218). As of August 1999, some 3,500 sites were enrolled—employers who enroll: (1) are not normally fined by the INS if unauthorized workers are detected; and (2) may enroll other company locations outside these states, so that a Nebraska meatpacker could also enroll its plants in Iowa (888-464-4218).

Detention. On January 27, US District Judge Terry J. Hatter in Los Angeles ruled that the federal government may not indefinitely jail non-citizens who have been ordered deported because they committed crimes in the US, but whose countries will not take them back, because indefinite detention violates the immigrants' rights to due process. The ruling affects about 130 immigrants from countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba who are being detained in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

The INS said that it was "disappointed with the judge's decision, and we disagree with it." A Seattle judge's decision to release detained inmates there is expected to be considered by the US Circuit Court of Appeals in February, 2000; the INS may also appeal the Los Angeles judge's decision. There are about 3,800 "criminal aliens" who are being indefinitely detained around the US after they have served their sentences.

Asylum. In FY98, the INS received 34,181 non-ABC applications for asylum from foreigners in the US. INS asylum officers conducted 42,000 interviews with asylum applicants and granted about 9,900 or 24 percent of the applicants asylum in the US. The other 32,000 were denied or referred to immigration judges — immigration judges granted asylum to 35 percent of the applicants who came before them. In FY99, 31,169 non-ABC applications for asylum were filed in the US. (ABC cases are those included in the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh settlement agreement.)

Some foreigners apply for asylum when they enter the US. If they have no documents or false documents at a port of entry, they are not admitted unless they convince an INS officer and his supervisor that they have a "credible fear" of persecution at home. In FY98, about 3,000 foreigners applied for asylum at US ports of entry and 86 percent convinced the INS that they had a credible fear, and thus were admitted until their applications were reviewed.

"Judge limits jail time for undeportable immigrants," Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2000. Ken Ellingwood, "U.S. Residents, Border Staff Clash," Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2000. Rene Sanchez, "For Stowaways, Perilous Passage as Human Cargo," Washington Post, January 17, 2000. Schrag, Philip G. 2000. A Well-Founded Fear: The Congressional Battle To Save Political Asylum In America. Routledge.