SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean police said Monday they have detained an international group of migrant traffickers who have sent more than 1,000 migrants out of the South American nation, including lone children heading to the United States.
The group also is accused of slipping people illegally into Chile. The Investigative Police said that while making the arrests in northern Chile, they encountered 57 Colombian and Venezuelan migrants who had just arrived from Peru.
Police said the ring was led by a Haitian man and also included people from Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela and Chile.
The head of the metropolitan police brigade on human trafficking, Giordano Lanzarini, said officials last year detected that children younger than 5 years old — offspring of Haitians who are Chilean citizens because they were born here — were being detected by immigration officials in other nations while heading toward the U.S.
He said the group so far this year had moved more than 1,000 Haitians, including some children traveling alone, setting out on the dangerous land trip across the continents to the U.S.
Thousands of Haitians came to Chile following a devastating 2010 earthquake in their homeland, and many found permanent jobs. But an economic downturn in 2019 followed by the pandemic and a growing sense of social rejection has led many to opt instead for the long trek toward the United States.
But that migration has created crises at chokepoints in several countries along the way as well as at the U.S. border itself, where thousands gathered at a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
That prompted the U.S. to fly some back to Haiti and allow others to wait in the U.S. pending hearings, while many others went back to Mexico, which has been trying to keep most such migrants stalled near its own southern border while slow asylum or residence appeals play out.