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Driving while Hispanic: It's not a crime

Driving while Hispanic:
It's not a crime

Some Latino advocates worry area police have turned to racial profiling in their search for human traffickers

By Kristen Zambo

Sunday, March 26, 2006

When a Hispanic man drives a van filled with other Latinos down Interstate 75, hes just driving.

But when local police and federal law enforcement on the lookout for human smuggling and trafficking pull over men like this, some Latino advocates say his only offense is driving while Hispanic.

Six men have been stopped on I-75 since September 2005 and accused of human smuggling for hefty profits. Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy said these men are profiting off the hopes and dreams of migrants, who illegally cross the border each day hoping for better lives in America.

There is really nothing more despicable than that, Molloy said.

The interstate long has been considered a corridor through which to smuggle drugs, guns and, now, people. Thats because such traffickers can hide in plain sight, Molloy said. Investigators know people now are transported through Southwest Florida on that route and they are targeting the smugglers and their bosses.

What were trying to do is improve the situation of the worker, Molloy said. To bring people, who are making money off their hopes and dreams, to task. This is not a safe harbor for (smugglers).

But its the way some of these investigations begin thats troubling for some.

Leonardo Garcia, executive director of the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Hispanic business owners and workers have voiced concern to the chamber that Southwest Florida is becoming

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