INS Cracks Child Smuggling Group

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Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
On August 13, 2002 the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service announced success in cracking the international group of children smugglers that brought hundreds of children from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras into the U.S. According to the INS, the group was the largest child-smuggling operation the INS has cracked. Operational since 1994, the group primarily smuggled into the U.S. children whose parents were already in the U.S. illegally, normally at a change of $5,000 per child. On April 5, 2002, Guatemalan authorities broke up the child-smuggling operation when they intercepted seven buses carrying 53 children, ages 2 to 17. Officials arrested twelve smugglers. The group was smuggling the children from El Salvador to the U.S. The difficult and risky trips lasted 10 to 30 days and forced children as young as 18 months to undertake trips through deserts and desolated mountain passes, as well as endure malnourishment, sleeping on floors, and other hardships. The success of the U.S. and Guatemalan Law enforcement operations illustrates the increasing international enforcement cooperation against human and especially child smuggling. The U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols on Illegal Human Smuggling and a second protocol on the Trafficking of Human Being, although none are yet in force, show the ability to penetrate and break up rings. Non-governmental organizations have also played an important role in exposing the smuggle rings and pressuring law enforcement and civil society organizations to combat this transnational crime. The ring in this case was less sinister than many of the rings wince its goal was uniting the children with their parents. Many rings smuggle children and then have them commit crimes to pay for the smuggling.