Immigration agents today took into custody 27 more suspected illegal aliens on a two-airline trip from Los Angeles to New York, bringing to 175 the number seized in a three-day crackdown on alien smuggling rings.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials in Atlanta, whose jurisdiction includes Charlotte, said the 27 were on a Piedmont Airlines flight from Phoenix that was to continue on the New York.
The 27, who are from Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador, were taken off the plane during a stopover here at 6:40 a.m., the INS said. They had flown to Phoenix on an America West Airlines flight from Los Angeles late Tuesday, officials said.
Commuter Tells Suspicion
“An irate citizen called our office (Tuesday) morning and claimed to be a commuter aboard the Piedmont flight,” said David Carmichael, supervisory INS agent in Charlotte. “The source suggested we check Flight 1522.”
He said the source had seen televised news reports of apprehensions made Monday in Atlanta and Los Angeles. “He had been on Flight 1522 and saw about 30 people who looked just like the ones in Atlanta,” Carmichael said.
Thomas Fischer, INS district director in Atlanta, said the aliens caught today apparently paid $2,000 apiece for the trip, which he described as part of a “massive smuggling ring.”
“Los Angeles is literally saturated with aliens,” said Neil Jacobs, assistant INS director for investigations in Atlanta. “The word has spread that L.A. is not the place to obtain employment.”
Carmichael said the INS hopes interrogation of the illegal aliens will lead the authorities to the smugglers behind the operations.
“It’s all economics for all of them,” Carmichael said. “There are those, like the El Salvadorans, who will request political asylum. I sympathize with the people who feel they are endangered, but when I look at the map I realize they had to pass through two other countries to get here.”
On Monday, INS agents apprehended 79 suspected illegal aliens aboard an Eastern Airlines flight that stops in Atlanta en route from Los Angeles to New York.
Sixty-nine more aliens were taken into custody in Los Angeles Monday night as they attempted to board the same flight.
A man believed to be a leader of a smuggling ring--Jorge Guzman-Romero, a 42-year-old Mexican--was arrested along with the 69 in Los Angeles.
Authorities said the chief smuggling operators remain at large, but they described Guzman-Romero as a leader.