Human Smuggling a Security Risk; ICE Official Warns House Panel

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Criminal organizations worldwide are making $9.5 billion a year smuggling foreign nationals, illicit drugs and weapons into the United States, including as many as 17,500 people who are forced each year to work as prostitutes, sex slaves, sweatshop laborers and domestic servants, federal authorities said yesterday.

John P. Torres, deputy assistant director for smuggling and public safety at the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims that human smuggling and trafficking into the United States constituted a "significant risk to national security and public safety."

Mr. Torres said well-established smuggling and trafficking pipelines serve as a conduit for illegal aliens and criminals seeking entry to this country, many of whom easily could have been "exploited by terrorist and extremist organizations" looking to carry out violent acts.

"The United States is a primary target destination for smugglers and traffickers, which means that literally tens of thousands of men, women and children are entering this nation illegally each year - undocumented, undetected and unprotected," he said.

Mr. Torres said untraced profits feed organized-crime activities, undermining governmental action and the rule of law, while allowing criminal networks to "grow stronger, more resilient and more dangerous."

He said many of the criminal enterprises show "a shockingly callous disregard for the lives in their charge," noting that often, illegal aliens seeking to flee poverty or abuse in their countries are forced to travel in squalid conditions without adequate food, water or air. He said that many frequently are subjected to brutal violence, forced labor and sexual exploitation and that several have died. …