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Smugglers finding ways around INS

May 17, 2000

HUNTSVILLE, Arkansas -- According to the AP, smugglers are finding different ways to route illegal aliens through the state, an INS official says.

Take for instance, the arrest Monday of 14 people packed into a pickup truck at a Huntsville street intersection, said INS spokesman Rod Reyes at Fort Smith.

Reyes said the INS has concentrated on Interstate 30 and Interstate 40 in Arkansas, but smugglers now are aware of the increased attention to those routes and have found others ways to travel the state.

"The smugglers also get some 'counter-intelligence,"' he said. "So they bypass Fort Smith. When they're on I-40, they get to Oklahoma City and they go to Tulsa and then northwest Arkansas and down to Little Rock."

The 14 people were taken into custody after the pickup went through a stop sign at the intersection of Arkansas 23 and U.S. 412.

Huntsville patrolman Bobby Ingle and officer Shannon Smith made the traffic stop.

"The driver just disobeyed a stop sign on Main Street here in Huntsville," Ingle said. "The driver had a form of identification, but it wasn't a driver's license. The only identification they had were voter registration cards ... from Mexico."

Police could see more men in the back of the pickup, covered by a camper shell, and discovered 11 others without appropriate documents.

The 14 were taken to Madison County Jail in Huntsville where they were held until INS agents arrived. From there, the men were taken to the Rogers Police Department for processing, then to the Washington County Jail.

Reyes said interviews with the men indicated they entered the United States in California and planned to drive to Georgia to work in the peach orchards.

Reyes said initial checks show none of the 14 has prior convictions in this country.

"Generally, when they're being smuggled through the U.S., they're to be used as laborers," said Reyes. "They typically pay the smuggler a fee to get them to a destination. Then the smuggler will hire a person or two people to do the driving. They'll use inexpensive vehicles or even rented vehicles. It's very hard to get to the actual smuggler."