WACO - On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in New York City charged 10 people for their alleged role in a human smuggling ring that operated along the U-S-Mexico border.
Six of those arrested were caught in Texas, renewing concerns over human smuggling and its ties to human trafficking in the Lone Star State.
As authorities have cracked down on smuggling, human smugglers have grown increasingly crafty in their tactics. In the Rio Grande Valley, authorities recently indicated smugglers were seeking young, female drivers, who they believed would be less suspicious if questioned by border patrol agents. Women who agreed to be drivers, were pocketing $1,250 per day, according to one report from our NBC affiliate in Dallas.
"They are changing their tactics all the time, so we have to be on top of our game," said Susan Peters, Executive Director of Unbound, a Waco-based organization that works to curb human trafficking along the I-35 corridor and beyond.
While human smuggling and human trafficking are different issues, Peters said they were certainly linked.
"It's very related to human trafficking because most of the time [victims] give up their passports or any papers," Peters explained. "They're usually charged an exorbitant amount of money, so by the time they come into the country, they owe that smuggler a lot of money. So, they're very vulnerable then for human trafficking."
Locally, the McLennan County Sheriff's Office has worked vigorously to combat human trafficking. In recent months, deputies have done six human trafficking stings, netting more than 200 arrests.
"These people, a lot of them, are scum of the Earth," Sheriff Parnell McNamara said. "We're going to keep the heat turned up on them."
Peters said the key to stopping trafficking is curbing the demand, something her organization is actively working to do.
(© 2017 KCEN)