Feds pursue four truckers and an acrobat for hauling illegal immigrants

| 2/5/2007

Four truck drivers were arrested last week for trying to smuggle 21 illegal aliens through El Paso, TX.

According to a new release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency's Border Enforcement Security Task Force staked out truck stops near El Paso to watch for smuggling activity.

Agents watched groups of three men getting into the cab of Genaro Tapia-Saldana's tractor at the Petro Truck Stop in Anthony, TX, on Jan. 27. The agents said three Mexican men told them they had crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S. the day before near downtown El Paso.

Also on Jan. 27, agents said they saw three men acting nervous as they climbed into a truck driven by Joel Victoria-Michaca, at a Petro truck stop in Vinton, TX. The agency's news release said Victoria-Michaca told the agents he agreed to take the men to Dallas for $1,200.

A few days later, the task force arrested truck driver Osvaldo Rodriguez Fierro on Feb. 4 in Anthony, TX, for allegedly hauling six illegal aliens who had paid $2,400 each to be smuggled to Los Angeles.

The news release stated that the Border Enforcement Security Task Force has coordinated officials from ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Texas to crack down on human trafficking.

"The need to stop this age-old practice of human trafficking is real and the roles of this security task force are critical to the ongoing success of infiltrating criminal enterprises that make a living out of human misery," said Robert Gilbert, chief patrol agent for the El Paso border patrol.

 The feds, however, aren't interested only in truckers that smuggle.

Madgalena Estrada-Collazo, 44, of El Paso, was arrested Jan. 28 when sheriff's deputies found three Mexican men riding in her 1998 Ford Expedition as the group headed to Phoenix.

In an unrelated case, Kristo Ivanov, a 70-year-old former circus acrobat, admitted last week that he helped 870 illegal aliens enter the U.S. from 2001 through 2006 by preparing visas for individuals he knew wouldn't work as circus performers.

The Department of Justice said the Bulgarian native came to the U.S. in 1980 while working as an acrobat for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus before forming his own circus booking agency in Florida.

"We will not allow this type of exploitation of our immigration system, which poses a risk to the security of our nation," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Alice Fisher, according to a Department of Justice news release.