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U.S. Marines Made "Major Money" Smuggling Immigrants Across Border

February 16, 2022 (1 min read)

Emily Green, Vice, Feb. 15, 2022

"Byron Law knew what he was doing was illegal. But the money was too good to pass up. On the morning of July 3, 2019, the 20-year-old and his friend headed out for another run in Law’s black BMW, eager to make some extra cash before the long holiday weekend. With any luck, they’d be finished by lunch. ... Law was one of more than a dozen Marines in the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton who started smuggling migrants into the U.S. in the spring and summer of 2019—even while thousands of their fellow Marines were deployed to the border to shore up security. At their peak, according to court records, they were going on multiple runs a week, coordinating among themselves to see who was free to go, and making excuses to get out of training exercises in order to make a few hundred dollars. With their closely trimmed hair, clean-cut look, Marine Corps stickers on their cars, and uniform caps on their dashboards, the Marines made the perfect smugglers precisely because no one would ever suspect them. They picked up migrants just north of the U.S. border and transported them 100 miles into the interior of the country in the last and arguably most precarious leg of the smuggling journey. While U.S. officials have denounced smugglers as accomplices to ruthless cartels and created a special task force to address the problem in Mexico and Central America, the smuggling ring at Camp Pendleton underscores the widespread recruitment of military members and Border Patrol into the billion-dollar criminal industry. ... “Having people who work for the government going out and picking up for us was a brilliant idea, and we knew nobody would suspect anything,” Francisco Rojas Hernández, the man who recruited at least 10 Marines from the base, told me from a federal prison in California in July 2021. “We were pulling in major money.” "