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Multinational Effort Aims to Cut Back Number of Illegal Immigrants

Aired October 18, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A new effort aims to crack down on illegal immigration into the United States. Authorities say they are working with Central American countries and that it is paying off in dozens of arrests.

CNN's Kate Snow has more on what is being called "Operation Forerunner."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): September 26: Guatemalan police set out to find "coyotes," smugglers who deal in human cargo, moving undocumented immigrants through Central America en route to the United States; part of the largest-ever multinational crackdown on illegal U.S. immigration. A U.S.-led move to stop the problem at its source.

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: In the past, our border with Mexico was the sole obstacle that smugglers faced when bringing migrants into the United States across the Southwest border. Today, we are forging alliances with our Southern neighbors.

SNOW: For three weeks, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service coordinated Operation Forerunner in Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama.

(on camera): Police in those countries arrested 38 accused smugglers, including Jose Leon Castillo, a man the U.S. Justice Department calls on of the most wanted coyotes in Latin America.

MEISSNER: He runs an operation that is dealing, regularly, with sizable numbers of people from many countries, many nationalities.

SNOW (voice-over): At so-called "drop houses," where smugglers hide their customers, authorities found about 3,500 migrants. The INS estimates each one paid about $4,000 for the trip to the U.S., sometimes more.

Most were from Central and South America, but some were flown in from Asia, Europe and Africa to be smuggled north.

HIPOLITO ACOSTA, INS, MEXICO CITY DIRECTOR: All of the countries feel that we have to work together to reduce the possibilities of any migrants being placed at risk or dying along the way.

SNOW: INS officials say the multinational cooperation will continue as they try to fight smugglers on their home turf.

Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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