Eastern Washington sees rrise in illegal immigration
December 19, 2003
SPOKANE (AP) -- Increasing numbers of South Koreans, often women
who pay thousands of dollars to human smugglers, are illegally entering
the United States along Eastern Washington's rugged border with Canada.
The women may agree to pay $6,000 to $10,000 each to be smuggled into the United States. And they are often forced to pay off that debt by working as prostitutes for organized crime rings in major U.S. cities, investigators say.
The human trafficking along Eastern Washington's 175-mile international border has increased in the past year.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, security has been substantially increased along the U.S. border in Western Washington, sending smugglers east.
"If you squeeze the balloon at one end, it's going to bulge at the other, and that's what we're seeing," Jim McDevitt, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, told The Spokes-man-Review in a story published Thursday.
"It's a concern, a huge concern," said McDevitt, who has called border security one of the most significant law enforcement problems in Eastern Washington.
In the fiscal year that just ended, 88 South Korean nationals were caught illegally entering the United States in Eastern Washington. That is a tenfold increase from the previous 12 months.
Authorities are unable to estimate how many others eluded capture.
Just last week, 10 Korean women and two drivers were seized, reportedly heading for Los Angeles. They now face federal charges or expulsion.
The latest arrests bring to 100 the number of Koreans illegally trying to enter the United States in Eastern Washington in the past 15 months, the Border Patrol said.
In July, a sport utility vehicle with 11 people aboard wrecked as it sped away from Border Patrol agents near Oroville. A 38-year-old Korean woman was killed.
The Korean driver, Byong Suk Kim, 32, pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Spokane to alien smuggling.
Kim was sentenced last month in Okanogan County Superior Court to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide in the death of passenger Song Hui Yim.
Once in Canada, the Korean women make contacts to be smuggled into the United States through ads in Korean-language newspapers published in Vancouver, British Columbia, investigators say.
Others make smuggling arrangements through "tour groups" before leaving Korea.
A favorite area is near the community of Molson, northeast of Oroville in Okanogan County, close to the border.
On Dec. 2 and Dec. 4, Border Patrol agents saw footprints in the snow indicating several groups had crossed from Canada, court documents said.
On Dec. 7, agents returned and caught 10 Korean women after they walked across the border near Molson, court records said.
"They didn't have much more than the clothes on their backs," said Kevin C. Smith, supervisory special agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Two men who allegedly had rented SUVs at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and driven to Okanogan County to pick up the women also were arrested.
The men, Won Jung and Seung Hyun Cho, both Korean nationals, were indicted Tuesday by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy and transportation of illegal aliens, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said.
One of the women they picked up near Molson had been ordered removed from the United States in September, after she was convicted of prostitution in Philadelphia, Smith said. She now faces formal deportation.
"The smugglers are taking advantage of Canada's immigration visa waiver program, which allows South Koreans to enter Canada with relative ease," Border Patrol spokes-man Paul Jones said.
So far, nothing is stemming the tide, although Jones said agents are doing everything they can.
The Border Patrol expects the Spokane area to continue to see "a marked increase in organized alien smuggling activity," he said.
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