Eight people were arrested in the southern United States for allegedly belonging to a human trafficking network that helped migrants cross the border in inhumane conditions, inside suitcases or boxes.
The detainees, motivated “by personal greed”, transported “hundreds or even thousands” of migrants from Mexico to the US in conditions that “put their lives at risk”, said Kenneth Polite, assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, in a press conference.
“They put people in small and dangerous spaces, with limited ventilation and high temperatures, risking their lives and safety for money”, he added.
One of the eight people arrested is Erminia Serrano Piedra, known as “Irma” and “Boss Lady”, 31 years old, leader of the network. Most of the detainees are US citizens, except one Mexican and one who has US and Peruvian nationality.
All were arrested in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and are accused of providing transportation and movement illegal immigrants inside the United States “in deplorable conditions to make a profit”.
One of the operations resulted in the release of twelve immigrants who were hiding in a house, including two minors.
The migrants would be citizens of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia, whose families paid the organization’s members to help them travel illegally to the US.
The migrants crossed the border in conditions and were later housed in “hides” in places like Laredo and Austin, Texas.
The drivers, who charged about US$ 2.500 per person transported , used various methods for transportation, including hiding them in suitcases or wooden crates transported in vehicles or shove them in the back of tanker trucks.
US authorities seized three properties belonging to the detainees, where they allegedly hid the migrants, in addition to more than US$ 2.2 million.
The operation was conducted as part of the efforts of Joint Task Force Alpha, which was established in June 2021 by US Attorney General Merrick Garland, to improve enforcement of the law against smuggling and human trafficking groups operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.