SAN YSIDRO, Calif. — Capping a six-month investigation, U.S. immigration authorities said Tuesday that they have broken up a sophisticated smuggling ring that funneled thousands of illegal aliens into the United States, mainly to work on San Joaquin Valley farms.
Although most of the aliens were Mexican nationals, authorities said the organization extended as far south as Guatemala, where aliens were recruited to provide farm labor in California. The ring--18 of whose members were arrested here--was a "major supplier" of farm workers to labor contractors in the San Joaquin Valley, said Harold Ezell, western regional commissioner for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Additional arrests are expected.
Immigration officials likened the operation to a "conglomerate" of three smuggling rings that brokered alien labor, depending on the demand. If one branch of the organization could not provide the labor, officials explained, another branch would be contacted and asked to fill the order.
"This was a very sophisticated operation," Ezell said at a news conference here. "They were operating a form of slavery, brokering human beings."