Investigators say truck trailers were used to smuggle immigrants

| 2/15/2006

Authorities have arrested nearly two dozen people involved a complex ring that was allegedly smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Canada.

The crackdown has been dubbed “Operation Oboy.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, authorities arrested 23 people in Detroit, New York City, and the Canadian cities of Windsor, Toronto and Leamington.

Sixteen of them have been charged so far, and could face 10 years in U.S. prison and a $250,000 fine each. Four of the defendants have also been charged with illegal smuggling on the Canadian side, and each one could face up to $1 million in fines.

“There was a complete disregard for the safety of these migrants who paid thousands of dollars to a gang for the privilege of being treated worse than cattle,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Glenn Hanna said during a news conference.

The immigrants came from China, Albania, Iraq and Syria, according to reports. Many of the 100 known illegal immigrants crossed the border from Windsor to Detroit on their way to get work in New York City restaurants, brothels and sweatshops, investigators said.

Most of them are in the process of being deported, authorities said. None of the immigrants are believed to have terrorist ties.

But the issue does raise concerns about national security and international border crossings.

“This stuff goes on every day,” U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy III of Detroit said in the Detroit Free Press.

Immigrants were locked in trunks of cars, truck trailers, and in boats and railway grain cars, all of which were owned by participants in the smuggling ring, according to reports.

“I’d say we’ve rolled up the ring,” Hanna said. “The entire ring from one end to another has been arrested.”

Both President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have made recent announcements about the need to increase border-security measures.

Bush recently unveiled his fiscal year 2007 budget that includes increased protection at the Mexican border, and other funding that could help authorities keep track of issues like smuggling rings.