… holding them hostage in "drop-houses" for large sums of money once they reach the United States. These human traffickers are ususally in the employ of Mexican drug cartels. This is a growing problem along the nation's southern border, but perhaps most especially in Phoenix, Arizona, which has earned the dubious distinction as the "kidnapping capital of the United States," owing mostly to its close proximity to the U.S. border with Mexico.
That's why we launched an investigation of the illegal alien human smuggling operation in Phoenix. Using the Arizona Public Records Act, Judicial Watched obtained PPD "Alien Smuggling Incidents" forms to study the problem. And then, from the data we collected, our investigative team produced a comprehensive map of drop house activity and violence in the Phoenix metro area.
Click here to see our map. (Note, you'll need to download the Google Earth program if you don't already have it.) You are going to be shocked by the intensity and scope of the violence taking place in neighborhoods around Phoenix, where law-abiding citizens, live, work and go to school.
The following are just a few of the data points from our investigation:
Between January 2006 and January 2009, Phoenix Police (PPD) logged 274 alien smuggling incidents.
During the three years of reports, the levels of kidnapping, violence, extortion, vulnerable victims, and use of firearms have all increased markedly.
The use of drop houses increased from 2007 to 2008. In the same period, sexual assault and violence more than doubled.
According to one PPD report: "One 16 yrs old female was 261 [raped] & multiple males were pistol whipped."
(Judicial Watch's drop house map has received a significant press coverage. Check our Judicial Watch's YouTube page to view a local Phoenix news story on our efforts.)
So here's how this squalid drop-house system, which is operated by Mexican drug cartels right here in the U.S., works.
Illegal aliens (called "pollos" or "chickens" by their smugglers) pay a large fee — $2,500 – $50,000 depending on their country of origin — to be transported to the United States. Individuals coming from Mexico trudge through the desert for two to three days, facing dehydration and death. Those who survive are then crammed into vehicles to be driven across the border. Once they reach the United States, the illegals believe they are home free. But then the coyotes change the rules.
The illegals are hauled off to suburban homes around Phoenix, stripped down to their underwear and held hostage. Their captors announce they will not be released until additional funds are paid. Of course, given that the illegals are alone and in a strange place with no work and no connections, they most often cannot pay. Sometimes family members of the victims back in their home country are extorted for the money. Sometimes male members of the families held hostage are allowed to leave to earn the funds while the women and children (who are easier to control) are kept under lock and key.
The smugglers will also call family members in the United States (both citizens and non-citizens) to extort ransom money for loved ones. The drop-houses are in Phoenix, but the impact is nationwide. Remember, in this crisis, every town is a border town.
And to say the conditions at these drop houses are inhumane would be a vast understatement. The coyotes shove their victims into pitch-black rooms with boarded windows. Basic necessities such as meals, running water and air conditioning are scarce. Usually, there is 1 bathroom for anywhere from 20 to 80 illegal aliens. The toilet may or may not work.
And then there's the violence which, according to ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement), includes sexual assaults, gaggings and beatings, even murder.
So, you would figure, given the amount of violence imparted by these despicable coyotes, that when one of them is caught that they would receive swift and severe justice. Not so. Only six percent of immigrant smugglers are prosecuted. And those that are convicted spend, on average, one month in jail.
No wonder human trafficking and the resulting violence are on the rise. Those who defend illegal immigration should know that the sordid business is deadly and funds the violent drug cartels in Mexico. Frankly, those of us who want to protect the border can be confident that doing so will save more illegal aliens lives than the so-called liberals could ever imagine.
As part of our overall campaign against illegal immigration, Judicial Watch will continue to investigate the problem of illegal alien smuggling. This is the underbelly of the illegal immigration crisis that does not receive enough attention by the press or our leaders in Washington, DC.
AZ Attorney General Takes a Pass on Double-Dipping Police Chief
On September 4, I told you that Judicial Watch challenged Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to investigate and discipline Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris for double dipping on pension benefits. Well, Attorney General Goddard failed to take up the challenge, notifying Judicial Watch in a September 26 letter that it will take no action against Harris.
According to the letter from his Division Chief Counsel Donald Conrad: "We make no judgment about the legitimacy of your claims about violations of Arizona law, but given our limited resources and your organization's stated intent to pursue these claims in court, we believe our resources can be better used to address other matters of concern to our citizens. Accordingly, this letter will serve as notice that we will decline action on this matter."
It's been a little while since we discussed the specifics of this case, so here's a quick review of the facts, so you know exactly the type of behavior that Goddard has chosen to ignore:
Chief Harris retired from the City of Phoenix Police Department "on or about January 19, 2007," but was subsequently rehired as "Public Safety Manager." However, Chief Harris continued to maintain his former title and position as Chief of Police. In fact, Chief Harris is listed as "Public Safety Manager/Police Chief Jack Harris" on an organizational chart maintained by the Phoenix Police Department.
According to Arizona law, if a retired member of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System "subsequently becomes employed in the same position by the employer from which the member retired, the system shall not make pension payments to the retired member during the period of reemployment." As Chief Harris continues to take pension payments in violation of the law, Judicial Watch asked Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to intervene.
So let's talk about priorities. Here you have the Chief of Police of Arizona's largest city engaging in flagrantly illicit behavior. Don't you think this should be of interest to the Arizona Attorney General? You can be sure the citizens of Arizona are deeply concerned about such an irresponsible waste of taxpayer funds and they certainly expect the state's top law enforcement officer to do something about it.
But alas, Goddard has chosen to ignore this corrupt behavior. And so, it is up to Judicial Watch to litigate the matter on behalf of Arizona taxpayers through the courts. I will be certain to keep you apprised of our progress.
Again, this is an issue that is not limited to Phoenix. The problem of double-dipping public employees is far too prevalent — especially in states like California and New York. There's a reason these states are in the economic dumps – and double-dipping by public employees who "retire," get paid a pension, then return to work for the government in the same job are no small factor in busting those states' budgets.
Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Judicial Watch in SPP Lawsuit
I have great news to report in Judicial Watch's ongoing effort to bring transparency to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). As I told you a few weeks ago, Judicial Watch attorneys were in the DC Court of Appeals on September 21 in this matter, and their efforts paid off. Last Friday, the appellate court ruled that Judicial Watch indeed has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Commerce Department related to the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), a group that advises the SPP.
Now we'll finally get our day in court and this is the essence of the argument we will make: The NACC must make its meetings open to the public and must release records relating to those meetings because it is subject to an open meetings law known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). As you may recall, Judicial Watch previously challenged the Cheney Energy Task Force under FACA in litigation that wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And Hillary Clinton's Health Care Task Force also faced a challenge (from another group) under this open meetings law as well.
With respect to Judicial Watch's SPP lawsuit, the lower court had ruled that Judicial Watch lacked standing to bring the litigation because it's "injuries" were not redressable by the court. The appellate court rejected this argument. Here's an excerpt from the court ruling, which you can read in full by clicking here:
To satisfy the constitutional standing requirement, familiar doctrine requires a plaintiff to allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and that will likely be redressed by a favorable decision on the merits. Here the injury requirement is obviously met. In the context of a FACA claim, an agency's refusal to disclose information that the act requires be revealed constitutes a sufficient injury…As Judicial Watch has standing to pursue its FACA claim, and the merits remain an open question, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is Remanded.
So why are we so aggressively trying open up the SPP Process?
From the documents we've already uncovered, we do know that conversations are ongoing between the three participating nations at the highest levels of government regarding policies that impact all Americans, from healthcare to immigration. And until Judicial Watch got involved, these conversations were being conducted behind closed doors. (Despite government stonewalling, Judicial Watch has already managed to force thousands of documents into the public domain. Click here to check them out.)
And how does the NACC relate to the SPP? The American component of the NACC is made up of key corporations and was set up by the government to advise the SPP through the U.S. Chamber of Congress. So far, the NACC has provided over 50 recommendations for action to the SPP. Judicial Watch wishes to gain membership to the group and gain access to documents about its meetings and activities. The NACC most recently provided recommendations to the North American Leaders Summit (which is now what the SPP is called by the Obama administration). The last North American Leaders Summit was just this past August – so the process continues.
Of course, we are very much looking forward to making out case in court. But President Obama could help things along if he would merely keep his own promise to provide "unprecedented" levels of transparency to the inner-workings of government, including the SPP.
Congressman Darrell Issa to Speak at Judicial Watch National Press Club Event
Just a quick programming note to close: On Monday, October 26, Judicial Watch will host an educational event entitled, "Oversight of the Obama Administration," featuring California Congressman Darrell Issa (R). The event, which is open to the public, will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 pm at the National Press Club's First Amendment Lounge here in Washington, DC. You may recall as the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that Congressman Issa has spearheaded a number of corruption investigations, including those involving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as ACORN, so he is a key player in Obama administration oversight. I hope you can come by…. Tom Fitton – President
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts and to access the embedded links please go to: www.JudicialWatch.org