Brazil police crack down on US migration racket

By Thomson Reuters Apr 11, 2024 | 5:29 PM

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s federal police carried out an operation on Thursday to dismantle a criminal scheme in several cities in Minas Gerais state that helped Brazilians enter the United States illegally using false documents, the officer heading the operation said.

Police officers carried out eight search and seizure warrants at homes and business addresses in Belo Horizonte, Ipatinga and Sardoa. Five vehicles, watches, furniture and high-value art objects were seized, Wesley Amato, the officer in charge of the operation, told Reuters.

At the request of the police, the federal court also ordered the blocking of the assets of those being investigated. The investigations found that the scheme netted 11.5 million reais ($2.26 million).

At least 115 people, including children, have been illegally sent to the U.S. since 2020 using false documents, said Amato.

Many of the migrants formed fake families, where the children’s documents were falsified to prove a supposed kinship, allowing easier access via the Mexican border to the U.S.

U.S. migration policy, according to Amato, allowed parents with children to respond to illegal immigration proceedings without being detained. However, once they were granted entry to the U.S., the Brazilians would disappear and set about their lives.

Each family paid an average of $12,000 to the enablers.

Police had requested the preventive detention of the eight people investigated in the racket because they had been traveling frequently to the U.S. and Central America, said the police chief.

The judge rejected the request, but ordered a series of precautionary measures other than imprisonment, such as the seizure of passports and a ban on leaving the country.

($1 = 5.0902 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Sonali Paul)