Huffpost Miami

Undocumented Cheerleaders: Nine Deported And Seven Convicted In Colombian Human Smuggling Scheme

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CHEERLEADER
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On September 30, 16 Colombians posed as a cheerleading team to try to enter the U.S. illegally at Miami International Airport. When their flight landed, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials intercepted the nine adults and seven juveniles, who were traveling under the rouse of participating in a South Florida cheerleading competition.

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations division in Miami had been looking into smuggling organizations in Bogota and learned of key players involved in the cheerleading scheme. At MIA, officials separated the leader who admitted he had no connection to cheerleading and had planned to stay in the U.S.

Yesterday, ICE announced that the final member of the group, Duastin Salazar, pled guilty to visa fraud. All of the juveniles and two of the adults were sent back to Colombia. But Salazar and six other of the adults were sentenced to two years of supervised release and a $100 fine.

Mike Shea, special agent for ICE's Homeland Security Investigation told CBS News:

By posing as cheerleaders, these defendants believed they could evade law enforcement and unlawfully enter the United States. To protect the homeland, we continually evaluate areas where criminal organizations may attempt to exploit our systems and processes to deny them access.

For the past several years, Miami-Dade has gotten more aggressive in fighting illegal immigration. In 2009, Miami-Dade and eight other Florida counties began participating a national program called "Secure Communities." When anyone is fingerprinted in jail, their prints are run through a database of undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Any matches are reported to the feds.