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INS News Release

October 17, 2000

 INS and Central American Governments
Disrupt Alien Smuggling Operations

 Jose Leon Castillo, Infamous Alien Smuggler, Arrested by INS


 WASHINGTON – The largest multinational anti-smuggling operation ever conducted in the Western Hemisphere has resulted in the arrest of 38 alien smugglers, including Jose Leon Castillo (AKA as Leoncio Castillo in Latin America), one of the most wanted people smugglers in Latin America. Approximately 3,500 migrants destined to the United States were interdicted during Operation Forerunner which covered six nations in Latin America, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner announced today.

"The arrest of a wanted international alien smuggler, Jose Leon Castillo, and the other 37 smugglers picked up as part of Operation Forerunner is a testament to the necessity and effectiveness of international cooperation," said Commissioner Meissner. "When nations work together, we can achieve tremendous results in combating the global multi-billion dollar problem of alien smuggling."

Believed by law enforcement to be one of the most notorious alien smugglers operating on this continent today, Castillo was arrested by INS on October 5, in Los Angeles and is awaiting transfer to Houston, Texas. He was the subject of an arrest warrant issued in Houston following a major investigation conducted by the INS Houston Anti-Smuggling Unit in conjunction with the INS Mexico City District Office. INS had Castillo under investigation for 14 months and believes he is responsible for smuggling thousands of aliens into the United States over the last five years.

Operation Forerunner is the latest in a series of anti-smuggling activities in Latin America known as Operation Disrupt. However, Forerunner is the first disrupt operation where several countries worked in a coordinated effort to protect migrants who are victims of criminal smuggling organizations. This multilateral effort targeted specific organizations with the intent to disrupt their alien smuggling activities from Latin America to the United States. The three-week operation began on September 21. Law enforcement officers in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama interdicted approximately 3,500 migrants who have been repatriated after immigration processing by these transit countries.

"Operation Forerunner demonstrates how our INS overseas deterrence strategy can work. We established simultaneous, coordinated efforts between the United States and other countries," said Hipolito Acosta, the INS Mexico City District Director. "To date, this is the most successful operation of its kind. The message is clear—the U.S. is working with its partners, and together we will pursue smugglers, leaving no place to hide."

National police agencies and immigration officials from the participating countries led this immigration enforcement operation while INS officers provided technical assistance and support in detecting fraudulent documents at hotels, safe houses, airports and highway checkpoints in the host countries. INS officers also assisted some host governments with airport passenger screening at international airports.

Operation Forerunner is one of many operations designed to counter international migrant trafficking. This operation is part of a larger initiative, known as Global Reach, which was launched three years ago to strengthen INS’ presence overseas. Operation Forerunner, involving six foreign countries, is the eighth disrupt operation in Latin America over the past five years. Those apprehended have been repatriated to more than 20 countries.

The arrests last Friday in Miami, Florida of three Ecuadorian nationals charged with alien smuggling is another case resulting from the INS Global Reach/Forerunner initiative. The arrests are part of an ongoing anti-smuggling operation being conducted by the INS Mexico City District Office and the Washington District Office. The arrests of Gualberto Eleuterio Ferrer-Pereira, Jose Jara-Cheme and Jimmy Gustavo Cruz-Avila are a significant blow to an organization engaged in smuggling Ecuadorian nationals into the United States.

– INS –





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