This July 17, an Indian-American, Hema Patel, 51, a bail bondswoman from McAllen, Texas, was sentenced in federal court in Central Islip, New York, to three years in prison, for her role in smuggling hundreds of illegal/undocumented people into the United States. Patel also has to give up her Texas residence, two hotels, $7.2 million in bail bonds, $400,000 in cash and 11 gold bars, among other assets.
Patel, and her co-conspirator, Chandresh Kumar Patel, 30, of Flushing, N.Y., (no relative) had pleaded guilty more than a year ago.
Tip Of Iceberg
This case could possibly be just the tip of the iceberg in what might be a wider network that enables use of fraudulent documents to bring in undocumented Indians from both the southern and northern borders.
Prakash Khatri, former Ombudsman of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service, USCIS, told News India Times, the 3-year sentence meted out to Patel, was “really low,” considering the “really serious crime” which he said ended up in conditions of “modern day slavery.”
According to a DHS report on enforcement actions taken from 2010 to 2017, that this writer looked at, ‘Initial Admissions to ICE Detention Facilities by Country of Nationality FY2010 to 2017’ show that the number coming from India has fluctuated, but has generally been on an upward trajectory (See Table)
From 1,996 in 2010 to a spike in 2013 with 4,057, down to 2,306 in 2013, and a jump up to 4,088 in 2016, going down a bit to 3,656 in 2017.
According to another DHS table, “Aliens Apprehended By Region and Country of Nationality: Fiscal Years 2008-2017.” Khatri noted, “In 2008, U.S. law enforcement apprehended 1, 218 Indians who were being smuggled in illegally, mostly on the Southern border; 1,155 in 2009; 2,175 in 2010; 2,859 in 2011, and 4,123 in 2016,” Khatri said.
“These are individuals coming through these criminal syndicates that move through various South American countries and then Mexico,” Khatri said, adding, “What Hema (Patel) was doing is — when these people were caught, they called her and she would basically ‘pay’ that bond with fake letters guaranteeing that their money would be paid.” And essentially,
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said when announcing the sentence, “For her personal financial gain, defendant Hema Patel arranged to have hundreds of aliens smuggled into the United States, completely by-passing the visa application and eligibility requirements,” That Donoghue indicated, put the safety and security of Americans communities at risk.
“The challenge here is Indian-Americans are seen as law-abiding and highly contributing to this society. Then we have this group really destroying the reputation of Indian-Americans. This is human smuggling,” Khatri said.
From April 2015 through October 2016, Hema Patel and her co-conspirators carried out their scheme to bring hundreds of undocumented aliens, primarily from India, into the United States in exchange for “fees” ranging from approximately $28,000 to $60,000 per person, the Justice Department press release detailed. Those high costs would be a deadweight to immigrants both legally here or those coming in through fraudulent means.
Patel and those working with her, paid middlemen, or “coyotes,” to arrange the travel logistics – either a northern route through Canada, or a southern route through Mexico.
When they were stopped and taken into custody by U.S. law enforcement officers, these immigrants called Patel, who then prepared fraudulent bond documents on their behalf, including documents listing fictitious names and addresses indicating where and with whom the aliens would be living while their cases were pending.
These documents and the bail bonds were then filed in United States Immigration Courts, and the people seeking to come into the U.S., were released on those fraudulent bonds.
Patel used two of her hotels in Texas to temporarily keep some of them.
On November 17, 2016, law enforcement agents searched Patel’s Texas residence, seizing thousands of fraudulent alien bonding records.
“Others like Patel need to be stopped because criminal syndicates are wreaking havoc with our immigration system. These people need to be day put away for a long time because of engaging in modern slavery. In 21st Century America, we should not be having indentured servitude, and employers also need to be punished,” Khatri added.
Department of Homeland Security data compiled by TRAC, (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse) a nonpartisan, non-profit data research center (trac.syr.edu), shows thousands of Indians have applied for bail bonds every year.
Latest figures for the period October 2017 to November 2018 and the first two months of 2019, show India ranks 3rd after Mexico and Guatemala as the source country for those seeking bond hearings.
The number of Indians applying for bonds, suddenly surged in FY 2018, with a three-fold increase over FY 2017.
“This unexpected jump may reflect the sharp change in enforcement and detention strategies of the current Trump administration which is targeting increasing numbers of long-time residents, including those who have overstayed their visas rather than entered illegally,” TRAC contends.
The TRAC data also shows however, that Indians have the highest percentage of bonds granted in hearings (87%), followed by Bangladesh (84%), and Nepal (79%). TRAC did not offer an explanation for this difference from other nationals, but it could be a result of the image Indian-Americans enjoy in this country as the highest earning, highest educated minority, the reputation or possibly even a stereotype, of Indians as a generally law abiding community.
Comparing how Indians fared in bond hearings in contrast to Mexicans during the same period from courts in every state where they entered from around the country, TRAC found that of the total 7,228 bond hearings of Indians, a whopping average 85% had positive outcomes, compared to just 43% of 34,192 Mexican applicants.
In some states and hearing locations, like California’s Adelanto Detention Facility West, 92% of the 1,879 Indian applicants were granted their bonds; and in Colorado’s Aurora Immigration Court, 97% of the 357 Indian applicants were granted them; and 95% of the 88 Indians got a positive outcome when they had their bond hearing at the Pearsall, Texas-Detention Facility.
This high rate of bail clearances for Indians could be a reason also for exploiting a good thing, where Hema Patel and Chandresh Kumar Patel saw the opportunity to build a sophisticated network and collect from the misery of others.