Alien Smuggling Is Getting Mighty Expensive

(CN) — Border Patrol arrests of undocumented people have declined by more than 50 percent since the chaos of the 1980s, but the price of being smuggled into the United States has increased by as much as 30,000 percent, according to guilty pleas Thursday, one from a woman who said she bribed a Border Patrolman with $15,000 per head, and sexual favors.

A 35-year-old Mexican woman pleaded guilty in federal court to smuggling aliens and bribing a public official. Miriam Juarez Herrera admitted she conspired with a Mexican cohort and U.S. Border Patrolman Jose Luis Cota to pay up to $15,000 per person and have sex to let her bring people in through the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the pleas Thursday.

Cota, who also has been criminally charged, has pleaded not guilty.

But Juarez Herrera pleaded guilty to three smuggling charges and bribery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Her fellow coyote, Gilberto Aguilar Martinez, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of smuggling, prosecutors said in a statement.

Both are in jail awaiting sentencing on April 7. Aguilar Martinez could be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, Juarez Herrera to more than 20.

As wars raged in Central America during the 1980s and the Border Patrol arrested more than 1 million people a year, coyotes charged as little as $50 a head to lead people across the border, immigration attorneys and Border Patrol officials said at the time.

In 2016, the Border Patrol arrested 415,816 people nationwide, up from 337,117 in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security said in its year-end report.

“Although apprehensions by the USBP in FY 2016 increased from FY 2015, they remain a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008,” the DHS said in a statement on Dec. 30.

Immigration agencies deported or “removed” 450,954 people last year, according to the DHS report — more than the Border Patrol arrested.

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