On January 28th of this year, a child smuggling ring
was caught in Tijuana, México while the on next day, January 29th
another ring was broken in Fontana, California.
Coincidence? In this case, yes.
Both rings were part of an international smuggling ring
that has been in existence for several years in Latin America. These
two cases are only a few of the most recent smuggling events to make headline
news. However, it should not be surprising to read. Sadly, child
smuggling rings have existed for several years all over the world.
There are various motives for these illegal rings. Some of the most
common are to serve as a black market for body organs and international adoption,
child prostitution, and to reunite children with family members living in
the United States.
Throughout Latin America, a black market for international
adoptions began to grow during the 1980s under several dictatorships.
Thousands of parents were tortured and murdered leaving their children at
the hands of the military regimes. These regimes quickly saw the profits
for making money from foreign couples wishing to adopt orphans from abroad.
According to a report issued by UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s
Emergency Fund), “…international adoptions are unethical in times of armed
conflicts, natural disaster and massive displacement because authorities
cannot guarantee a child is an orphan.” An example of this atrocity
occurred in El Salvador when troops took hold of thousands of children from
villages supporting leftist groups such as the FMLN (Farabundo Martí
National Liberation Front). Some of these children went to families
of officers and soldiers but most were believed to have left the country
with smugglers or adopting families. Similar events took place other
Latin American countries such as Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.
Paraguay became notoriously known under Stroessner’s dictatorship, of placing
orphaned children and even newborns of living parents into a black market
for body organs needed throughout the world.
The process of resolving all the heartache and turmoil these
smuggling rings have caused for families living in Latin America has not
been easy. Numerous organizations grew after the dictatorships in hopes
of reuniting children with their extended families. One such group
is the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. This group of women
has fought and struggled on a national and international level to reunite
themselves with their grandchildren and learn of their whereabouts for over
25 years. One can still travel to Argentina today and see these women
out in the plaza protesting with signs and slogans in search of their loved-ones.
Unfortunately, their search has taken a much longer time than those who were
found recently in México and California.
According to U.S. law enforcement officials the motive behind
the two rings caught in México and California was to reunite these
children from El Salvador, with family living in the United States.
However, Mexican federal officials did not rule out the possibility that
this international ring may also involve children destined for prostitution
or even death as organ donors. Overall, authorities from both countries
did agree that the number of minors involved in these smuggling events demonstrates
a significant challenge to law enforcement. It is a challenge that,
unfortunately, continues to claim the lives of many young innocent victims.
“Although this case seems to have turned out OK, there are many cases where
kids have turned up injured or killed as a result of smuggling activity,”
quoted FBI spokesman Matthew McLaughlin shortly after recovering the children
from Fontana, California.