According to the US, a Mexican woman in her 60s was the leader of a massive human smuggling ring

Ofelia Hernandez-Salas, a 61-year-old woman from Mexico, has been extradited to the United States to face charges of smuggling people from countries such as Uzbekistan and Bangladesh into the US. Hernandez-Salas is accused of leading a transnational smuggling network that illegally transported thousands of migrants from Mexicali, northern Mexico, to the US border. The indictment alleges that she provided migrants with ladders, holes, and a plan to cross the border.

Human smuggling is a common practice along the US-Mexico border, and Hernandez-Salas's gender and advanced age make her an outlier. She helped at least 13 migrants sneak across the border in May 2020 alone. The extradition was a result of continued coordination between the Justice Department and Mexican law enforcement partners. The indictment was filed in 2021 and unsealed in March when Mexican authorities arrested her. Hernandez-Salas was extradited on September 5. In June, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on the criminal organization she leads.

A surging number of people from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border, with those with money often paying smugglers to facilitate their journey. While Afghan migrants are almost certain to be allowed into the U.S. to pursue an asylum claim, the U.S. is deporting a growing number of migrants from far-flung countries, including Russia and Bangladesh, to stem the tide of people worldwide seeking refuge in the U.S.


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