Gang Members Smuggling Migrants Were Previously Released By ICE

A migrant gang based in New Jersey has been smuggling groups of illegal immigrants into the United States from the Canadian Border. Daily Mail reported that the gang receives $6,000 for each illegal migrant that successfully crosses.

The migrants running the operation are reportedly from Guatemala and Colombia and were residing illegally in New Jersey. The scheme has been in full force since 2019 and primarily transports migrants between Quebec and Vermont.

Court filings revealed that several gang members have been caught transporting migrants and were then released by authorities with no charges. The New York Post suggests that the gang’s “under-the-radar- surge in crossings” is largely due to the overwhelming focus at the southern border.

The two leaders of the smuggling gang are Colombian Jhon Reina-Perez, 34, and Guatemalan Victor Lopez-Padilla, 35. Both migrants entered the U.S. illegally through the southern border in El Paso, Texas, and were allowed to seek asylum until their immigration hearings.

Reina-Perez was ordered to keep in touch with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), though he failed to do so. Eventually, he was detained by ICE for allegedly guiding five migrants by foot near the northern border. He was released once again after declaring he was going to reside in Washington state and comply with ICE’s requirement to stay in contact with them. For the second time, he did not comply.

Reina-Perez’s partner in crime, Lopez-Padilla, shares a similar history. He attempted to enter the U.S. at the southern border in 2019 and was arrested in Yuca, AZ. Just like his accomplice, the Guatemalan smuggler was released on the condition that he check in with authorities.

The judge overseeing his case also approved his request to move to New Jersey. After missing his follow-up court hearing, the same judge ordered him to be deported. Lopez-Padilla was not arrested again until the recent smuggling bust. Daily Mail reported that he is a known supporter of Joaquin Guzman Loera, the Mexican drug lord nicknamed El Chapo.

Other members of the gang have also been caught and released by U.S. and Canadian authorities. Elmer Bran-Galvez, the driver for the gang, was investigated by U.S. border agents in Vermont. He admitted to smuggling migrants for $1,800 per head, yet he was not charged or arrested.

In Canada, Simon Jacinto-Ramos assisted the gang in transporting migrants to the northern border for pickup. While Canadian authorities had arrested him in the past, the charges did not allow them to detain him.

In 2023, Canada saw over 10,000 arrests for illegal crossings at the U.S. border. According to Daily Mail, this is five times more than that of the previous year.