Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Homeland Security | Immigration | MidPoint | A.J. Irwin | border patrol | human trafficking

Ex-ICE Agent: Feds Seem Indifferent to Human Trafficking

By    |   Friday, 20 March 2015 04:19 PM

American businesses hungry for cheap, undocumented immigrant labor are enablers if not members of violent criminal rings that also traffic in illegal drugs and indentured servitude, but federal authorities appear to have other priorities regarding border control, says a former immigration and customs agent.

"There used to be a huge priority for human trafficking and smuggling," A.J. Irwin, formerly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV on Friday, referring to the agency's office of investigation.

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"We called it smuggling, and now it's called human trafficking because, obviously, there's been people who have been victimized — such as these people who are smuggled and fraudulently tricked into working in indentured servitude," said Irwin.

"Why isn't there something being done about it?" he said. "I know agents who tried to do something about it, but they don't receive as much support as someone who would be doing an investigation of a narcotics trafficker or a trafficker of microchips or of counterfeit T-shirts. It just doesn't seem to be a priority in the agency anymore."

Irwin was lead case agent in United States v. Pappas, which in 1997 yielded the largest corporate criminal fine for immigration violations in U.S. history, against the southwestern Pappas restaurant chain for hiring undocumented workers.

Irwin said that as an agent he led probes into companies shopping for cheap labor.

"They sponsor the alien to come into the country, and that's not just people from Mexico — that's people from all over the world." he said.

"A smuggling fee, let's just say, is $10,000," he said. "Most of these people don't have $10,000, so they have to come up with the money somehow — pay half or pay in stages. Sometimes an employer will pay the smuggling fee and then when the employee safely arrives at the location, the employee is required to work for free until that smuggling fee is paid back."

He said he believes that this still goes on, and that some U.S. businesses are dealing directly with cross-border human traffickers.

"The border, on both sides, is a dangerous place," said Irwin. "And it's a business that is controlled by cartels, whether they be narcotics or human traffickers. To move people like that through the border, the dessert, the river, it's almost always an organized smuggling business.

"And when they're smuggling, there's money involved," he said. "Whether it's being paid by prospective employers or family members, it's a business, no doubt."

Irwin also questioned this week's Senate testimony from a U.S. Border Patrol agent charging that he and his co-workers are punished if they report sightings of illegal alien groups larger than 20 coming across the border.

"I don't buy it, not at all," said Irwin. "It's an exaggeration."

"I don't believe that the Border Patrol are misleading when they're reporting their statistics," he said.

But immigration "is such a hot-button issue right now," he said, that the political uproar may be coloring how agents and their superiors interpret what's happening on the ground.

"People on different sides of the issues can manipulate the statistics to serve whatever their agenda is," he said.

"The border patrol has different ways of determining the 'got-aways,' if you want to call them that — the people that they don't apprehend," Irwin explained.

"When a line agent sees signs or other indications that a group of more than 20 has crossed into the United States illegally, then for the Border Patrol to report this, they bring a supervisor out simply to corroborate the information.

"It's not that they doubt the line agent, it's just that they're trying to — it's CYA, basically," he said.

He added: "When there's an indication of 20 or more people crossing the border on foot, as we're talking about today, that is almost in every instance an indication of an organized human trafficking scheme. People do not just get together."

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American businesses hungry for undocumented immigrant labor are enablers if not members of violent criminal rings that also traffic in illegal drugs and indentured servitude, but federal authorities appear to have other priorities, says a former customs agent.
A.J. Irwin, border patrol, human trafficking, ICE
Friday, 20 March 2015 04:19 PM
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