- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

The U.S. Border Patrol arrested 118 illegal aliens at a “safe house” in Rio Rico, Ariz., just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, in a raid this week by a unit of undercover agents that has targeted alien smugglers and those who help them.

The team, known as the Disrupt unit, raided the house near Interstate 19 after receiving a tip about “suspicious activity.” The agents took the illegals into custody and seized four vehicles. Twenty-three houses used by smugglers to stash illegal aliens awaiting transportation to cities throughout the U.S. have been uncovered by the team since October.

Created by former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert C. Bonner as part of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, the team has focused on southern Arizona, where more than half of the 1.15 million illegal aliens apprehended last year were caught — about 1,700 arrests a day in that state.

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Mr. Bonner, who retired in November, described the Disrupt team as part of a “full-court press to reduce the number of illegal aliens crossing our borders, and to detect and arrest those engaged in illegal cross-border activity.”

Working with investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the team targets and seeks to disrupt the criminal organizations that smuggle foreigners into the United States.

“The community is the second set of eyes and ears for not only the United States Border Patrol, but for all law enforcement,” said Jose L. Maheda, a Border Patrol spokesman in Nogales, Ariz.

Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar told a Senate subcommittee last month that the detection and disruption of alien and drug smugglers on the U.S.-Mexico border was a top priority and that efforts to identify and dismantle these criminal organizations have resulted in an increase in violence aimed at his agents.

Chief Aguilar said that nearly 200 agents had been assaulted since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, and that the number of agents assaulted during fiscal 2005 was more than double that in fiscal 2004.

“This line of defense does come at a price, and our dedicated agents face significant risks,” Chief Aguilar told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security. “As we continue to bring larger areas of the border under operational control, we can expect spikes in border violence as border criminals discover they can no longer operate with impunity and are prevented from using the border for their criminal activities.”

The owner of the Rio Rico house, Diva Boreale, told reporters that she and her husband were “surprised” by the raid because she had no idea the residence — which was rented out — was being used to house illegal aliens.

Mrs. Boreale said “trash, covers, pillows and clothes” were just some of the items left by the illegals and their smugglers. “The house looks damaged.”

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