An illegal immigrant from Guatemala was sentenced to seven months in jail late last month for paying human smugglers to bring his 16-year-old brother-in-law into the U.S., in what officials say is one of the first cases to punish a relative for enticing a family member to make the dangerous trek north.
Miguel Pacheco-Lopez admitted he paid $6,100 to “coyotes,” as the smugglers are called, to bring his wife’s brother into the U.S. last year. He expected the teen — identified in court documents by the initials S.M. — to pay the majority of the money back at 8 percent interest.
The prosecution was part of a groundbreaking strategy to try to slow the stream of unaccompanied alien children by going after the people they are trying to join in the U.S.
“This criminal jeopardized his own family members by paying human smugglers,” said James C. Spero, special agent in charge at the Tampa office of homeland security investigations. “He endangered a child’s life with a dangerous and unlawful journey into the United States, and now he will be held accountable.”