Commentary: The following story is just one of many that justly portrays the enormity of the illegal immigrant invasion of our country. The already appeared damage that’s been done to America’s economy and social infrastructure is at least helping to fuel the outrage of the average American citizen to the point that the main stream media is finally starting to acknowledge the news. Still, for every story we hear about, there are hundreds that go unreported.
Travel Agents in Arizona Helped Smuggle Illegal Immigrants by Plane, Authorities Say
By: Julia Preston
Published: March 31, 2007
The latest package deal that smugglers have offered to illegal immigrants in sneaking across the Mexican border includes flights from Las Vegas to points around the country arranged by Arizona travel agents, law enforcement officials in Phoenix said yesterday. Details of this air travel business, which the authorities said totaled $2 million in bookings, were disclosed in felony indictments brought on Thursday by Terry Goddard, the Arizona attorney general, against 14 travel agents from six agencies in his state. The charges were filed after a year long investigation in which agents posed as smugglers, or coyotes, and went to the travel agencies to arrange flights for customers they identified as illegal immigrants. The charges include human smuggling, racketeering and money-laundering. The authorities said the case revealed another facet of the vast smuggling business that has flourished in Arizona and other border states, as stepped-up border enforcement has made illegal crossing more difficult and pushed up smugglers’ fees. Typically, a smuggler’s package includes a guide for the trek across the border, a drop house to rest in on the American side and overland travel to destinations within the United States. State law enforcement officials said that smugglers had turned to sending immigrants by air through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas because air travel had become less risky than long overland trips, and there were fewer immigration agents patrolling in Las Vegas than at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Smugglers sent their immigrant clients in vans and trucks to Las Vegas, officials said. The prosecution was brought under an anti smuggling law adopted in Arizona in August 2005. Law enforcement officials charged that the six agencies had arranged 6,800 one-way air tickets worth $2 million for illegal immigrants since the law took effect. During the undercover operation, the agents bought $35,000 worth of one-way tickets from the six agencies, Mr. Goddard said in a statement. No illegal immigrants were actually transported in the operation, officials said, and no immigrants were charged in the case. Marina Tours and Travel, one of the agencies named in the indictment, said in a statement that it “believes in American enterprise and the rule of law” and that it would cooperate with the attorney general in the case. Telephone calls were not answered at Acapulco Travel and Tour, Apricus Travel, Mundo Travel and Planet Travel, the other agencies in Phoenix with agents charged in the indictment. At the sixth agency, Toronto’s Travel in Scottsdale, a man who answered the phone declined to give his name and said he had been advised not to comment. The accused travel agents were given summonses to appear for arraignments next week. The investigation was prompted by a raid in February 2006, on a smuggler’s drop house in Arizona, officials said. In the search, agents found 25 one-way plane tickets from Las Vegas arranged by one of the agencies. It was not simply the act of selling the ticket, but actually doing so while they were aware its use is to smuggle a human being,” said Andrei Cherny, the assistant attorney general in charge of the case. Calls to the Phoenix Police Department were not returned. Lt. Vince Piano of the Phoenix police told The Associated Press that some travel agents gave advice about how illegal immigrant customers should dress and act in the airport to avoid attention, and where they could obtain fake identity documents. Smugglers charge $2,000 to as much as $10,000 for a guided border crossing that includes air travel to distant destinations, officials said.