Border crime investigators often talk about how migrants die because smugglers drive them through dangerous desert crossings. They may arrest a few low level smugglers at a time but now they say theyve reeled in a big fish and international cooperation helped them do it.
Many immigrants risk death in the open desert driven by human smugglers who care more for money than life.
John Modlin is Border Patrols Tucson Sector Chief. He says: The methods and tactics of smuggling organizations are increasingly becoming a public safety concern, not only for communities along the border, but for everyone everywhere.
Investigators say Maria Mendoza-Mendoza was a leader in groups like that. Now shes in U.S. custodyindicted along with 27 co-conspirators. Many of them have already pleaded guilty.
In a news conference investigators showed a map they say shows favorite crossing points in the desert west of the Tucson area and a stash house near Phoenix where immigrants would be held until they paid thousands of dollars to be released.
Homeland Security Deputy Special Agent in Charge Leo Lamas says a typical arrest may snare just a few minor players but this one brought down a large network.
So when somebody is involved in a smuggling attempt, they’re gonna leave a physical footprint, that virtual footprint ,digital footprint. And the investigators are the ones who take those facts, those pieces of evidence and kind of put them together and start seeing patterns. That’s how this case was developed. We took one event and matched it to several other events, and that really started to get the scope of the whole organization.
Cooperation with Honduras helped extradite Maria Mendoza-Mendoza for prosecution here. Arizona U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino says the fact Honduras was willing to help suggests countries along the immigration routes feel the strain of immigrants passing through.
So heres what their incentive is. Human smuggling is not just an American problem, there is plight and misery all along that corridor that’s taking people up through South and Central America into the United States. The motivation for all sovereign nations is to band together here to try and stop this problem because it impacts not just the migrants crossing through but the communities through which they are crossing.