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INS Launches 'Operation Denial' in ArizonaAired August 9, 2000 - 2:37 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Efforts to stop illegal immigration are apparently working well in California and Texas. But immigrants have found a weak link in the chain, one that leads them directly into Arizona. Federal immigration authorities are mounting a new drive to stop the tide.
CNN's Charles Zewe joins us with more about it from Phoenix -- Charles.
CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They call it "Operation Denial." It's focused on Sky Harbor Airport here in Phoenix, which Immigration and Naturalization officials are calling the "Grand Central Station" of immigrant smuggling in the United States.
More than a hundred agents, both here at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, and at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, are concentrating today on people being smuggled through the airport, generally at the last minute, flying one-way flights, bought at the last minute. They are targeting those people today and so far, here in Phoenix alone, 67 people have been arrested today.
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner is saying Operation Denial is intended and designed to break up immigrant smuggling eventually throughout the U.S.
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DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: The goal of Operation Denial is to choke off the migrant smuggler's ability to use the Phoenix area as a hub for their illegal practices by denying them access to the corridors and the networks that make the movement of their human cargo possible.
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ZEWE: Sixty so-called safe houses have been broken up in the Phoenix area in recent months. That's where officials say the immigrants who have been smuggled across the border from Mexico are held until they are taken to the airport and put on generally late- night flights to points all over the United States.
Four people have been killed in connection with the smuggling here in Phoenix alone in the last year. And Commissioner Meissner and other INS officials are saying that this operation will go on indefinitely as they try to plug one of the obvious loopholes in one of the leaks in the nation's defenses against illegal immigrant smuggling.
Charles Zewe, CNN, live, Phoenix.
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