Smuggling Desis

News from AP:

SEATTLE -- U.S. and Canadian authorities announced yesterday they have broken up a human smuggling ring suspected of illegally shepherding dozens of Indian and Pakistani nationals into Washington state from British Columbia.

A U.S. federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted 14 U.S. and Canadian men for their roles in the alleged scheme. Twelve had been arrested as of yesterday.

Investigators on both sides of the border worked on the case for more than a year, apprehending roughly 50 people who had allegedly paid as much as $35,000 US apiece to be smuggled into the United States, said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle.
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He said the network in Vancouver is part of a larger smuggling organization spread across Canada.

A couple of points come to mind here. The obvious one is, of course, the porous nature of the US-Canadian border and the resulting security implications. Additionally, consider a) organized desi gangs spanning both USA and Conada and b) that they are charging an extraordinary amount of money for passage. $35000! Are folks still that desperate to come to the US? Even more interesting, human smuggling may well be a lucrative side benefit to what these organizations really do. From an article in Salon last year:

Since then, however, the Homeland Security patrol has been finding mainly marijuana on the boats it searches -- industrial quantities of a potent strain known as B.C. Bud, named in honor of the Canadian province where much of it is grown, British Columbia.

More than 2 million pounds of B.C. Bud is thought to reach the U.S. market every year. The whole industry is thought to be worth $7 billion. The product surges into the United States like water flowing off a mountain, finding its way through every crack. It is dropped by small planes or helicopters into the raspberry fields and parks of Washington state. It is walked across the mountain forests in backpacks, stashed among frozen berries and driven in articulated buses or in the back of vans on country roads. Or it comes by sea, on a flotilla of unassuming watercraft.
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It is a big pie everyone seems to want a slice of. A lot of the smugglers caught on the border are from ethnic Indian and Pakistani gangs in Canada.

Oops, up goes the model minority ethos in a cloud of aromatic smoke. But fear not! There are heroes in our midst. From the AP article:

Winchell said two undercover agents infiltrated the alleged smuggling operation, which slipped most immigrants across the border in between patrolled ports of entry.

Although, it's not explicit, I don't think the infiltration would have been possible unless one was of South Asian extraction. Desi undercover agents perhaps? The mind boggles.

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- April 13, 2006 6:59 PM // Diaspora