Officials want more pressure on human trafficking
By Eileen Sullivan
The Associated Press, June 10, 2009
Washington, DC (AP) — The Obama administration and Sen. Chuck Schumer want to step up pressure on human-trafficking operations by taking away their safe houses.
Schumer announced plans Wednesday to propose legislation to allow federal agents to seize houses if they can prove the buildings were used by smugglers to shelter illegal immigrants temporarily.
Under current law, the home owner must be convicted of a smuggling-related offense before prosecutors can seize the safe house.
Officials say taking safe houses out of play could disrupt many smuggling operations. Federal law allows prosecutors to seize houses in drug cases, money laundering and child pornography, but not for human smuggling.
'This policy needs to be fixed right away,' Schumer, D-N.Y., said after a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. 'It can put a serious dent in the operations of the Mexican cartels that deal in human trafficking.'
Richard Stana, director of Homeland Security and Justice programs at the Government Accountability Office, said he doesn't know why the administration and Congress hasn't made this a priority in the past.
Stana said that in dealing with human smuggling operations, the goal is to take away the tools used to carry out the operation specifically the houses where illegal immigrants are hidden by their smugglers.