Fake Cheerleaders (Disguised Prostitutes?) Apprehended at Miami Airport

Published on December 25th, 2011

Only one thing can be said with certainty about the patriotic immigration reform effort. We may think you’ve seen it all…but we haven’t.

On September 30, a report came out of Miami that a Colombian man had been arrested for visa fraud after trying to smuggle 16 young women, some minors, into the United States by using fraudulent documents.

The women came from Cali to allegedly participate in a South Florida cheerleading contest. Daustin Salazar and six others plead guilty.

Mike Shea, acting agent in charge of Miami ICE said:

“By posing as cheerleaders, these defendants believed they could evade law enforcement and unlawfully enter the United States.To protect the homeland, we continually evaluate areas where criminal organizations may attempt to exploit our systems and processes to deny them access.” [Gimme A “G”: Man Pleads Guilty for Smuggling Fake Cheerleading Team, CBSMiami, December 15, 2011]

I’d be more impressed with Shea’s vigorous statement in support of his ICE employer if Salazar had been thrown in jail or at least fined significantly fined. Instead, his punishment was a measly $100 and supervised release—not even a slap on the wrist but more likely an incentive to try his scam again.

While we can’t be sure what ultimate fate awaited the young women and teenage girls, my first bet would be prostitution.

The cheerleading case, although it involved scam documents, reminded me of one of the most depraved incidents in the H-1B visa’s history. Every time we read about the H-1B, it’s always about lobbying for more so called “best and brightest” workers. But unbeknownst to the casual observer, the H-1B can and has been used to import foreign-born car salesmen, football coaches and even sex slaves.

The 1999 case of Lakireddy Bali Reddy, the 62-year-old Berkeley landlord accused of and subsequently convicted (2001) of smuggling young Indian girls into the United States for prostitution purposes was exhaustively investigated and reported on by my CAPS Senior Writing Fellow colleague Rob Sanchez. All the sickening details are here.

Reddy, posing as the girls’ father, brought them into the country as his dependents. One of the girls died while in Reddy’s captivity where she had been forced into performing deviant sexual acts and menial labor. As the details unfolded, prosecutors learned that Reddy had been abusing the H-1B visa for years. Reddy, sentenced to eight years jail time and $2 million, was released in 2008.

The Reddy case is an extreme example of H-1B visa fraud and should have launched a massive Congressional investigation into closing the legal loopholes that permit grand scale fraud. But it didn’t. Just two weeks ago, Infosys sent its US-based Human Relations manager Poornima Prasad back to India to avoid depositions regarding his involvement in tax and visa fraud charges brought against his employer. [Infosys Sends Key HR Staff Back to India, Avoids Depositions, by Don Tennant, IT Business Edge, December 15, 2011]

The twelve years that have passed since the Reddy case is ample time for an overhaul in H-1B visa regulations to protect American workers. Instead, all we’ve gotten is calls from big business lobbyists and their supporters for the visa cap to be increased or, better yet in the eyes of those who abuse it, removed entirely.

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