NJ-based gang of migrants charging $6K a head to smuggle illegal immigrants into US from Canada: report
Social Links for Jorge Fitz-Gibbon
Published Feb. 4, 2024, 12:10 p.m. ET
A New Jersey-based migrant gang is smuggling hordes of illegal immigrants into the US across the Canadian border for a price of $6,000 a head, a new report reveals.
The human smuggling gang took root after its founders were briefly detained and cut loose by federal immigration authorities.
The ringleaders, migrants from Guatemala and Colombia, snuck across the Mexican border and set up shop in the Garden State, running the lucrative scheme while dodging the feds, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
While US Border Patrol agents grapple with an overwhelming flow of asylum seekers from Mexico, the Jersey-based gang has helped spark an under-the-radar surge in crossings along the northern border, the outlet said.
“With the huge asylum-seeker concentrations and with all of those people crossing the border and with the huge increase in the amount of enforcement that is going on on the southern border, it is probably, if you have an option, a lot easier to try to get in without inspection across the Canadian border,” said Philip Kasinitz, a professor of immigration studies at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Continue watching This Day in History after the ad The video player is currently playing an ad.
The migrant smugglers are capitalizing on it — charging a hefty bounty to sneak immigrants from Quebec and into Vermont, where scrutiny is much less intense, the Mail said.
Simon Jacinto-Ramos, an alleged ringleader of a migrant smuggling gang based in New Jersey, is still on the loose in Canada. Tin Ramos / Facebook
Elmer Bran-Galvez was stopped driving four immigrants into Vermont in June, but wasn’t charged, the Daily Mail said. El Pupa / Facebook
In June, Elmer Bran-Galvez, allegedly a driver for the smuggling ring, was stopped by border agents in Franklin, Vermont transporting four illegal immigrants, telling authorities he was paid around $1,800 for each illicit passenger — but was not charged, according to the outlet.
Last year, more than 10,000 migrants were busted trying to get into the US from Canada illegally, nearly five times the 2022 figure — an indication of the massive rush across the northern border, the outlet said.
Two of the New Jersey gang’s ringleaders — Jhon Reina-Perez, 34, and Victor Lopez-Padilla, 35 — were finally arrested by federal authorities, but it hasn’t stopped the flow of migrants.
Reina-Perez, a Colombian national, crossed the US southern border in Texas in April 2022 and was released pending “immigration proceedings” but failed to check in with authorities and was busted again in October of that year — only to be released again.
Border Patrol agents nab migrants trying to sneak into the US across the northern border in November. Rosario Pete Vasquez / X
Lopez-Padilla, who is from Guatemala, crossed into the US in Arizona in June 2019 and was also released pending future proceedings, leaving him and his accomplices free to run the smuggling scam.
According to the Daily Mail, Lopez-Padilla may have ties to jailed narcotrafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the alleged co-ringleader making several references to the drug kingpin on his Facebook account.
Despite now finally being in custody, a third cohort, identified as Guatemalan national Simon Jacinto-Ramos, remains on the loose and running the operation.
Because Mexico is on Canada’s list of “visa-exempt” countries, migrants can head there for an easier route into the US — if they come up with the cash to pull it off.
Morning Report delivers the latest news, videos, photos and more.
Four migrants busted trying to sneak into the US illegally at Niagara Falls. Chief Patrol Agent Thomas G. Martin / X
What do you think? Post a comment.
“Presumably some of them are entering legally on tourist visas, business visas and any kind of legal visa and then illegally crossing into the United States,” Kasinitz said.
Nonetheless, the US border with Mexico remains the most troubling center of the migrant crisis, with more than 2 million crossing illegally last year.