Not long ago, the Washington Post reported on one of my clients from Eritrea, who was smuggled through a dozen countries before entering the U.S. and gaining asylum.  The article states that my client's "epic trip underscores the challenge of protecting U.S. borders in the face of agile networks of smugglers, corrupt officials who arrange travel documents and desperate immigrants willing to pay thousands of dollars for the journey."  These networks worry U.S. officials:

"While the majority of aliens smuggled into the U.S. probably do not pose a risk to national security, the problem is terrorists could exploit these smuggling travel networks," said James C. Spero, deputy assistant director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which enforces immigration laws. "It is a major concern for us."

Recently, there seems to have been some progress in combating the smuggling networks.  The Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo reports that on March 10, a joint Ecuadoran and Columbian raid captured Yaee Dawit Tadese, a/k/a Jack Flora, an Eritrean smuggler, and 66 other individuals from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  Mr. Tadese managed a network that trafficked migrants from Africa to the United States, using two routes running through either Ecuador or Venezuela.  According to the website, Mr. Tadese was deported to the U.S. on March 12, where he faces terrorism, and drug and human trafficking charges (the article also reports on a rumor that Mr. Tadese is Osama bin Laden's cousin, but that seems a bit far fetched).

Yaee Dawit Tadese: Osama bin Laden's long lost cousin?

It remains to be seen how much these arrests will impact the flow of illegal migrants to the U.S., but I imagine it will have an effect-at least for a while.

In related news, a change in the visa requirements in Ecuador might also reduce the number of migrants passing through that country en route to the United States.  In 2008, Ecuador eliminated visa requirements for most countries.  Since that time, according to, the country has "seen the growth of Colombian, Russian, and Chinese organized crime groups operating within its borders."  Ecuador's "lax visa policies may have also increased the smuggling of Asian and African migrants from the Andean nation to the U.S."

Late last year, "Ecuador created visa requirements for nine countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia."  This change may also reduce the number of migrants passing through Ecuador on their way to the U.S. 

Given that it takes several months for people to travel from Ecuador through Central America and Mexico to the U.S., I suspect we will begin to see the effects of Mr. Tadese's arrest and the new visa requirements in the near future.  Will these developments reduce the number of people arriving illegally at the U.S.-Mexican border, or will they simply cause the migrants to seek out alternative routes?  We will know soon enough.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: