President Clinton launched a government campaign Friday against crime syndicates that smuggle aliens into the United States, calling it "a shameful practice of unspeakable degradation."
"With this plan, the United States signals its abhorrence of the trafficking in human beings for profit and its determination to combat this illegal activity," Clinton said in a Rose Garden ceremony.
The president called for legislation to subject smugglers to tough penalties under federal racketeering statutes, better enforcement of existing immigration laws and greater efforts to stop smuggling at the source.
The anti-smuggling plan will coordinate the work of 12 federal agencies.
Earlier this month, eight people drowned when a freighter carrying 300 illegal aliens from China ran aground off a New York City beach. And since August 1991, organized crime activity has been documented in at least 14 boat smuggling incidents.
Clinton also announced he would nominate Doris Meissner, a former Justice Department immigration official, to serve as commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
More smugglers arrested: For the second time in 10 days, authorities Friday rescued a group of Chinese illegal aliens and arrested gang members who allegedly held them hostage.
A task force of New York police and immigration agents raided a house in the borough of Queens and found 14 men and eight women being held. They had paid or promised to pay $20,000 to $30,000 each to be smuggled into the United States, said William Slattery, New York regional director for the INS.
Police arrested five members of a Chinese gang called the White Tigers on charges of alien smuggling and alien harboring.