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Trafficking: 24 Hours on the Border

Aired May 19, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Tonight, a special edition of 360. Trafficking, "24 Hours on the Border". The high price of not being able to control who comes and who goes. Drug smuggling, baby smuggling. People delivering the young and vulnerable into sexual slavery, all of it happening all around us, all around the clock.
ANNOUNCER: Secret vault: an exclusive look at the government's hidden chamber. It contains hundreds of millions of dollars of smuggled contraband, blocked in the battle at the border.

They say you can buy anything at the border, even a baby. A Mexican woman tries to sell a two-week-old boy, sneaking the newborn into America for a price.

Under the border, and undetected, another secret passage carved out of the earth. A trafficking pipeline for humans, drugs and weapons.

Plus in the shadows of the border, Tijuana, where girls and young women, hoping for a better life in the U.S., are lured into a world of sex and slavery.

Tonight, a special AC 360, trafficking humans, drugs and sex: "24 Hours on the Border". Here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening. We come to you from the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County.

One way or another, every story you will see tonight can be traced to a simple fact. No matter how hard they try, and they try very hard, authorities cannot fully control the boarder with Mexico. We know it, they know it and a whole sick underworld of smugglers and hustlers and traffickers know it, too.

The stories you'll see tonight, good, bad and some of them very, very ugly, they flow from that one fact. And they are happening around the clock, which is how we'll report them, starting with an exclusive look at a vault full of contraband in the dead of night.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" (voice-over): As night falls, a shoot-out in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. As a new day nears, the streets will run red with blood. Drug traffickers battling with Mexican federal agents. In this shoot-out, all but one of the drug cartel gunmen are killed. Others will quickly take their place, however. There's money to be made and valuable smuggling routes to protect.

After midnight, Border Patrol agents on the U.S. side wait in darkness to catch smugglers bringing drugs across. The violence on the border has been increasing, and drug seizures are on the rise.

At the San Ysidro border crossing, at least 50 bricks of cocaine were found hidden this car. The driver, a Mexican woman, was allegedly a drug mule, supposed to meet up with a contact in San Diego.

(on camera) Most of the drugs which are seized at the border end up here. Now, we can't tell you exactly where here is. All I can tell you that it's a secret location, heavily guarded somewhere in southern California.

This is a locked vault, operated by the Customs and Border Protection. It's heavily guarded. Inside this vault are more drugs than you've ever seen in your entire life.

(voice-over) From floor to ceiling, there are boxes and boxes of drugs.

PAUL HENNING, U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: We have the big four here, marijuana, meth, coke, and heroin. In addition to that we have other drugs, such as steroids, ketamine, date rape drugs, and a variety of other things that are of smaller quantity.

COOPER (on camera): This is incredible. I mean, it's a warehouse of drugs.

HENNING: That's correct. It's one of 67 warehouses that we have in the United States. This is the largest. It contains right now about 80 tons of different types of drugs, right now amounting to a street value of about $150 million.

COOPER (voice-over): But harder drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, are kept in locked cages.

(on camera) This is what meth looks like up close?

HENNING: That's what it looks like up close in its raw form, that's correct. And this was actually seized from the gas tank of a motorcycle.

This is heroin. This is black tar heroin. This was seized in a Volkswagen Jetta, in the firewall of the Jetta. And again this officer was picking up on the nervousness on the part the driver, and then the presence of the odor was confirmed by one of our detector dogs. And you can actually smell the pungent odor of the heroin through the packaging.

COOPER: That's what that is?

HENNING: It smells very much like vinegar.

COOPER: Yes, yes. (voice-over) One pound of heroin sells for about $25,000 on the street.

(on camera) Who are the traffickers?

HENNING: The traffickers are very large cartels, very large organizations that control the flow of the narcotics from where it's produced to where it's going.

And they'll simply recruit anybody that they can to actually smuggle it across the border. They're not going to do that themselves. They're going to try and hire somebody who's expendable that they can then talk into bringing this stuff in.

COOPER: This is just one package of marijuana. This one weighs about 13 pounds. It's worth about $45,000 on the streets in the Midwest. What's remarkable, though, in this shipment, is they found 11,000 pounds of marijuana hidden in a tractor trailer truck, which was supposedly carrying television sets. It did have some TVs, but it also had all these bales of marijuana.

On the street, all of this stuff is probably worth about $33 million.

(voice-over) The drugs here don't stay forever. Most are kept as evidence until the judicial process runs its course. Then they're moved out.

(on camera) This is literally the end the line for the narcotics that have been seized in this area. They're boxed up, shrink-wrapped and then sent to be incinerated. They're basically burned. Before they're put in these boxes, however, they get tested one more time by Customs and Border Protection officers.

That's a brick of marijuana, and he's putting it in plastic containers to do what?

HENNING: That's correct. He puts it inside the plastic container, seals it up, and then breaks three individual ampules of chemical that are inside. And once all three of those react then with the THC content in the marijuana, we'll get a purple color, a very vibrant purple color, which will tell us that that is indeed marijuana.

COOPER (voice-over): For all of the drugs incinerated, more boxes and narcotics will quickly take their place. The cat and mouse game between drug traffickers and law enforcement shows no sign of letting up.


COOPER: As the sun comes up, a new day begins here along the U.S.-Mexican border. And the cat and mouse game between traffickers and Border Patrol agents continues.

It's not just drugs which are being smuggled across this border, of course. It's people, as well. Sometimes even children. And for them, the trip across this border is particularly dangerous. Some of them are sold by smugglers, forced to work as prostitutes. Other times, children just simply disappear as they try to cross over the border. Their parents are left wondering "Whatever happened to my baby." As CNN's Thelma Gutierrez found out firsthand.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daybreak on the border. And U.S. and Mexican agents prepare for another onslaught of deportees, led through this international gate back into Mexico.

The faces we see are not just men, women or even teenagers. We're talking about small children, kids whose parents paid smugglers to sneak them into the United States in the trunks of vehicles, under floorboards, seats, even hidden in the dashboards and glove compartments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I hid under blankets in the compartment of a bus.

GUTIERREZ: Just 15, Astrid made the harrowing trip from El Salvador to Tijuana all alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Sometimes it's hard to breathe. And sometimes we only had water.

GUTIERREZ: Astrid was trying to reach Boston, where her mother works in a factory. She left Astrid when she was only a baby so she could send money to help support her. But Astrid was caught at the border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I never understood why my mother went to the United States. I always felt sad for not having grown up with a mother.

GUTIERREZ: Enrique Mendez, who runs this makeshift children's shelter just inside the Mexican border, sees children like Astrid arriving every day, all day long.

(on camera) This mobile home here in Tijuana is right on the boarder of the two countries, and it's meant to be a safe house for the kids who are deported from the United States. If you come here into this room, you can see that there are bunk beds.

(voice-over) The day has just started. Already, parents and relatives show up looking for lost children, Children who disappeared with their poyeros (ph), or smugglers.

This mother tells Enrique she's worried sick. She says her son is only 3. He was supposed to be delivered to her brother in Los Angeles, but he never made it.

Enrique says the mother was told that the smuggler was caught by Border Patrol, and her son is in custody. If not, there's no telling what has become of him. ENRIQUE MENDEZ, DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN'S SHELTER (through translator): Distraught families come here and say a smuggler approached us and he said, "I'll take your child across, or I know someone who can." The family knows nothing about the smuggler, and they never hear from the child again. So those kids were most likely trafficked for other reasons.

GUTIERREZ: U.S. and Mexican officials say smuggled children who disappear often end up in the hands of sex traffickers. No one knows just how many.

I asked Liliberta Cruz (ph) if she was afraid to send her son with a stranger all alone. She tells me desperation drove her to make a bad decision. She's a single mother from Oaxaca, deep inside Mexico. She was looking for domestic work in Tijuana, but no one would hire her with a small child. That's why she took the risk.

Enrique calls the Mexican consulate in San Diego. Liliberta's (ph) 3-year-old son, Jajir (ph), is safe. And on the next bus back to the border. An incredibly rare and lucky find. Most parents don't find their children here.

It's noon. The bus arrives. Seventeen deported children make their way back into Mexico. The smallest among them, 3-year-old Jajir (ph), who is scared, lost and unable to verbalize what he's been through.

Liliberta (ph) returns to claim her son.

Back on the U.S. Side of the border, Enrique's counterparts locate Astrid's mother, whom she hasn't seen in 14 years.

These mothers say they took the most dangerous gamble to better the lives of their children but nearly paid the most painful price.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


COOPER: That was truly an amazing reunion. But more often than not, this border behind me tears families apart. The desperation is so great. On the Mexican side of the border, as you're about to see, just about everything is for sale.


SATCHA PRETTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under the noon time son in Monterey, Mexico, something sinister, something unthinkable is about to happen.

You're watching a sales transaction unfold. This woman appears to be offering a baby to a stranger for cold, hard cash.

The events leading up to this moment begin weeks earlier online. A man in Dallas, Sergio, accidentally stumbled into the baby for sale offer while surfing the Internet. Sergio, who did not want to show his face or reveal his last name, was chatting online when he received a bizarre sales pitch from a woman in Mexico.

SERGIO, REPORTED BABY FOR SALE OFFER (through translator): I began to play along with her and ask what she wanted. What was her deal?

PRETTO: The deal, she wanted $70,00 in exchange for a 2-week-old baby boy.

SERGIO (through translator): When I tried to get a hold of the attorney general's office in Monterey, I couldn't.

PRETTO: So instead, Sergio contacted the KUVN News department in Dallas. We sent a camera crew to his house to check out his story.

On Friday, April 28, we taped Sergio chatting online with the alleged baby seller. Here is the disturbing exchange.

Sergio asked if the baby was registered or had a birth certificate. The woman answered no. He asked if the baby was healthy, to which she responded, "He's healthy. It's just that I don't feel anything for him."

Sergio asked to see the child, and then on his screen appeared a grainy picture of the baby.

Sergio continued chatting with the woman until she agreed to knock down the price to $50,000. At that point, Sergio had gained enough trust to get her name, Anna Luisa Hidalgo, and her cell phone number.

Before signing off, the woman agreed to show Sergio her face so that he would be able to recognize her when they met in person.

Prior to that meeting, we asked an Televisa network affiliate in Monterey, Mexico, to collaborate with us on the story. A reporter from Televisa pretended to be Sergio, the man Anna Luisa Hidalgo had been negotiating with on the Internet. Cameras secretly videotaped their first face-to-face meeting on April 29 on Monterey, Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sergio.

ANNA LUISA HIDALGO, TRIED TO SELL BABY (through translator): My cousin, and the baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Oh, cutie. How old is he?

HIDALGO (through translator): Two weeks and three days.

PRETTO: During a second meeting, a week later, the undercover reporter asked the two how they were going to bring the baby into the United States. Anna Luisa Hidalgo and her alleged accomplice, Alejandro Hernandez, said they had taken care of the issue. The infant would be smuggled in for an additional fee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How much are they going to charge me?

HIDALGO (through translator): I am not sure. He didn't tell me. About $2,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Two thousand dollars?

PRETTO: An infant, in the hands of a smuggler.

Surprisingly, Hidalgo seemed incredibly nonchalant about giving up the baby who she claimed was her very own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't back out now. Doesn't it hurt?

HIDALGO (through translator): No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No? Doesn't it hurt?

HIDALGO (through translator): No, no, no. I can have more.

PRETTO: The three appeared to have agreed to finalize the sale of the baby on May 11 in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo. But this time, reporter Jose Unidas (ph) from Televisa Monterey didn't show up alone. Several Mexican agents formed a sting operation and hid nearby.

Once Unidas (ph) was face-to-face with the sellers, he asked them one more time to confirm their deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How much is it? Fifty thousand?

PRETTO: Three Mexican federal agents surrounded and arrested Hidalgo. Today, that tiny baby boy is in the care of child protection agency in Mexico City.

(on camera) Mexican officials are conducting DNA tests to confirm whether Hidalgo is the mother of the baby. And they're also trying to determine if she's ever tried to sell an infant before.

In Dallas, Satcha Pretto for CNN.


COOPER: CNN has attempted to contact the attorneys for Anna Hidalgo Rivera and Alejandro Hernandez without success.

When "Trafficking: 24 Hours on the Border" continues, we take you inside the tunnels being dug underneath the U.S./Mexican border.


COOPER (voice-over): Some of the most sophisticated passageways ever discovered, used for illegal trafficking. Wait till you hear what was found inside them. And a disturbing trade you don't often hear about: puppies smuggled across the border. And the scary thing is, your pet may be one of them.

That and more when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to "Trafficking: 24 Hours on the Border", a special edition of 360.

We're in Smugglers Gulch along the U.S./Mexican border in San Diego County. And this right here is the border, the fence. It's about 12 feet high. It's made out of corrugated steel. It's pretty rusted along this stretch of the border. Pretty easy to climb over this fence.

But even in places where the fencing is more high tech, along the U.S./Mexican border, traffickers have found a way to get around the fence. Actually, by digging underneath it, literally.

Since 9/11, law enforcement have found at least 43 tunnels along the Mexican and Canadian borders. Forty-three tunnels. In fact, right here in San Diego County, earlier this year, they discovered what they believe is the most sophisticated tunnel ever dug into the United States. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): It's early afternoon on the border, south of San Diego. In a nondescript warehouse in Otay Mesa, immigration authorities make a stunning discovery.

(on camera) The exit to the tunnel isn't much to speak of. It's just a 3x3 foot hole that's been knocked in the floor of this industrial warehouse south of San Diego. There's a concrete piece of tiling, which was removed. And they found the tunnel here. When you go down the ladder, you enter another world.

(voice-over) It's a labyrinth of secret passageways, an elaborate tunnel where narcotics made their way to the United States. It was discovered last January by immigration and customs enforcement agents.

(on camera) This is one of the most sophisticated tunnels they've ever discovered underneath the U.S./Mexican border that likely took years to build. You can see some of the pick marks used. And this is stone. So digging through this would take a long time to do.

It's also got electricity. They've wired the entire tunnel with these cables that have light bulbs on them. There's even a pipe that brings in fresh oxygen. It was pumped in from Mexico.

Mike Unzueta is a special agent in charge of immigrations and custom enforcement in San Diego. His team believes the tunnel was most likely built by a Mexican drug cartel. MIKE UNZUETA, SPECIAL AGENT, ICE: You can see right here, there's a junction box for electricity. They probably used these junction boxes in the construction if they had some sort of electrical tools that were assisting them in the drilling.

COOPER: This tunnel was discovered by San Diego's tunnel task force, the only specialty force of its kind in the country.

UNZUETA: And here's where it really starts getting kind of wet.

COOPER (on camera): When you're walking in the tunnel, it's easy to get did disoriented. It's hard to get a sense of really just how big it is. They say the tunnel is about seven football fields in length underneath the United States and about one football field in Mexico. It's a total, they say, of about 2,400 feet.

(voice-over) This is the largest tunnel ICE has ever found underneath the U.S./Mexican border. For that reason, they call it El Grande.

(on camera) And it looks like there's water all the way through.

UNZUETA: Yes. And actually, this is one of the shallower parts.

COOPER (voice-over): When U.S. and Mexican authorities raided the tunnel, they discovered more than two tons of marijuana. But how many tons of illegal drugs were brought through here before the tunnel was found remains an open question.

(on camera) There's no way to tell how long this tunnel was in operation. Ropes are still all around. These were probably used to actually carry the bales of marijuana by the people who were bringing the drugs into the United States.

And gradually, as the tunnel rises up toward the exit point in San Diego, they've actually poured concrete here to build steps to make it easier it for people to walk on.

How would the drug operation work, do you know?

UNZUETA: Well, we think it would be kind of like a series of ants. There would be a number of people that would be starting in Mexico, either carrying boxes or bundles across or maybe backpacks, making their way all the way across the tunnel to this side, probably depositing them at the entrance and then backtracking again.

COOPER: Does a cartel or whomever it is that built this tunnel, would they specialize just in marijuana or are they pretty diverse in terms of the drugs they try to move?

UNZUETA: No, my guess is that they would probably be a polynarcotic organization. They would be moving cocaine, marijuana.

COOPER: Authorities have far fewer clues about what else might have been brought through this tunnel. UNZUETA: From a Department of Homeland Security perspective, I mean, we're looking at this as a vulnerability to our nation's security. So whether it was drugs or aliens or who knows what else, you know, tunnels are of paramount importance.

COOPER: Since El Grande was found last January, more than 20 other tunnels, albeit smaller ones, have been discovered along the southern border.

Two small tunnels, or gopher holes, were found here near the San Ysidro point of entry, the biggest near Mexico. With 130,000 people crossing daily, it is a prime location.

FRANK MARWOOD, DEPUTY SPECIAL AGENT, ICE: It's perfect for what they want to do. By the fact that they are close to the border, the tunnel can come across fairly easily. The fact that they're in a parking lot where there are lots of vehicles always here 24 hours a day.

COOPER: Frank Marwood is a deputy special agent with Immigration Customs Enforcement. Last Friday, his team found this tunnel. It was only three feet high by four feet wide, called a gopher hole for obvious reasons. It stretched only about 90 feet into the U.S.

MARWOOD: The plate sitting to my left here on the ground is the actual metal plate that they utilized to sit on top of some cinder blocks that were used to reinforce this hole.

COOPER: Marwood says border authorities take immediate action to plug the tunnels.

MARWOOD: I'm going to lift this up against the fence so you get an idea of what we do. We plug them, which is putting back in just concrete to it.

COOPER: Amazingly, while Marwood's team filled one tunnel on Monday, the concrete mixer nearly sunk into another tunnel, only 100 yards away.

MARWOOD: These kinds of access roads are constantly traveled by Border Patrol and by other law enforcement agencies on the U.S. protecting the borders. And they literally sink into the drive, the roadway, on those places below that these smugglers have caved too close up with no reinforcement.

COOPER: It's a much more primitive tunnel, still incomplete with no exit on the U.S. side. But it too will need to be filled.

Closing up El Grande has already begun. Federal contractors drilled a 35-foot hole and poured cement into the tunnel right where it crossed the U.S. border.

So far, only one Mexican national has been arrested in connection with the building of this mega tunnel. But the investigation is still ongoing.

And authorities know for every tunnel they find, there are many more they probably do not.


COOPER: Above ground, the U.S. Border Patrol is working day and night to try and stop illegals from crossing over.

When this special edition of 360 continues, a disturbing trade you don't often hear about: puppies smuggled across the border. And the scary thing is your pet may be one of them.

Plus, a deal that was just too good to be true. She was promised a dream job in the United States. What she was got a nightmare. A horrific story, when "Trafficking: 24 Hours on the Border" continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to "Trafficking: 24 Hours on the Border", a special edition of 360.

Late in the afternoon, with the sun up and the sky gets pretty hot along the border, particularly difficult time for illegal immigrants trying to cross. Often, they'll find sweaters like this likely left behind by an illegal immigrant who has attempted to cross over.

Just about everything is trafficked across this border. As CNN's Gary Tuchman found out, even puppies.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 3 p.m. on the U.S./Mexican border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of there. That's a good boy. Get out of there, buddy.

TUCHMAN: Another type of smuggling is taking place. These are sick, underage puppies. All 26 of them found stuffed in two small burlap bags in the car of a puppy smuggler. Officials say they would have been sold on street corners in the U.S. Now, they're fighting for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These dogs aren't much bigger than hamsters.

TUCHMAN: Under California law, dogs can't be sold if they're under 8 weeks old or sick. And the vets at the shelter say these dogs are no older than 5 weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't go too far, Neil (ph), because you're going to fall. OK?

TUCHMAN: Underage dogs like these are sold to unsuspecting families all the time for prices well under the more than $1,000 that is often paid in a pet store.

Rosie Tercero (ph) bought a poodle mix named Cody for her children. After paying $400 on a street corner in Rancho Cucamonga, California, she quickly noticed he was sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About two weeks later, he started showing worse signs of neurological disorder. He started twitching really bad. And then I took him in and the doctor said, "We need to put him to sleep."

TUCHMAN: Her sister, Monica Wescomb (ph), bought two tiny dogs for her children this past November. They both died within days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're now in March, but it still hurts, because it was two puppies.

TUCHMAN: Lieutenant Dan De Sousa is with the San Diego County Department of Animal Services.

LT. DAN DE SOUSA, DEPT. OF ANIMAL SERVICES: Unfortunately it's safer than selling drugs. If you're caught smuggling puppies you're not really going to be arrested right away and sent away.

TUCHMAN: For the conscience challenged puppy smuggler, the business model is irresistible. Go into Mexico and you could buy pure bred puppies for as a little as $20 a piece. Gamble that you'll successfully get across this border and then sell them in the United States for a 1,000 percent markup. That is a typical scenario.

We went into Tijuana, Mexico, and asked where we could buy puppies. Using hidden cameras, my photographer and I found tiny puppies being sold out of a car. Schnauzer miniature. It is not illegal to sell dogs younger than eight weeks in Mexico. But because the people selling them know their puppies could end up in California, they may not have told us the following if they knew we had a camera. Seven weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven weeks, uh-huh.

TUCHMAN: This dog is seven weeks old, he says. We say good-bye to these puppy peddlers and make our way to this shanty. Puppies are for sale in the yard. Here we show the cameras and they show us puppies in a basket. They're only four weeks old. And not much bigger than large rodents. She says she loves her dogs and wants them to be taken care of properly, but puppies like these are prime candidates to be smuggled across the border. James Hines is the director of the San Ysidro, California Border Crossing, the busiest in the U.S. They have confiscated hundreds of puppies.

JAMES HINES, SAN YSIDRO CALIFORNIA BORDER CROSSING: They could be in a basket with a blanket over them, they could be in baggage, they could be in the trunk.

TUCHMAN: So in southern California, different agencies have gotten together to try to deal with the puppy smuggling problem. With our hidden camera, we shoot a sting operation. An undercover officer with the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority answered this classified ad from a woman alleged to have sold many underage puppies in the past. The transaction takes place and the officer signals. That's when this Los Angeles woman gets the surprise of her life. Guns and handcuffs spring out. She's placed under arrest and charged with selling a dog that is too young and sick. She's with her small son and police try to comfort him. They count up $1,700 in her wallet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We received previous complaints about her. We actually think she's a big fish.

TUCHMAN: Do you know why you were arrested?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no I don't. I don't. They said for selling underage dogs, but they're not.

TUCHMAN: The authorities disagree. After a vet looked at the dogs that he said were full of worms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're estimating their age to be 6 to 7 weeks.

TUCHMAN: A search warrant allows authorities to go into her home. They say they find more underage puppies and more excess cash. The suspect faces the possibility of one year in prison. Police say puppy smuggling is increasingly popular because small dogs are very trendy. Monica Smith though says she just wanted a dog for her children to love. What happened to your doggy?


TUCHMAN: And so have countless others. Smuggled across the border by people not at all consumed about the heartache they are causing. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


COOPER: As the day continues, we meet a young mother smuggled into the U.S. and forced to live and work in unbearable conditions. All because of broken promises. Now she's helping others so they don't go down the same path. Her story coming up.

Plus, we'll take you to Tijuana, Mexico, and enter the dark world of sex slavery. Teenaged girls kidnapped and taken to the U.S., where many disappear forever. When Trafficking 24 Hours at the Border continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to Trafficking, 24 Hours on the Border special edition 360. We're coming to you tonight from the U.S./Mexican border right here in San Diego County, California. There are traffickers who work this part of the border. Well of course they don't work for free and they're smuggling in human beings, they charge those humans sometimes thousands of dollars. Often illegal immigrants who can't actually pay the smugglers, well they have to work off their debt somehow. CNN's Tom Foreman investigates just how they do it.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Against the 5:00 rush in Los Angeles, this woman named Flor thinks about how the worst trip of her life began. When a friend in a sewing class told her recruiters in her Mexican town were looking for tailors to work in America.

FLOR, VICTIM OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: She was a teacher, she was a sewing teacher.

FOREMAN: She knew that you had children, you needed the money and you had skill.

FLOR: And she said they were going to pay for everything.

FOREMAN: But after Flor was smuggled in, she says she was taken to a sweat shop, forced to sew for 18 hours a day and sleep in a storage room. While her boss demanded $2,600 for bringing her here.

FLOR: She threatened me, she said that if I tried to escape, if I tried to do something that wasn't right, somebody who I love will play the consequences.

FOREMAN: Human trafficking, the modern slave trade. Closely watched by the federal government in recent years, is believed to bring 18,000 people across the border into America annually. Half for the sex trade, half for forced labor as domestic help, farm, factory and construction workers. According to Wade Horn, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DR. WADE HORN, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: It would be a mistake to believe that this is a crime that is only occurring in border towns, only occurring in big cities.

TUCHMAN: This is happening along Main Street USA, everywhere.

HORN: It is happening everywhere in the United States, unfortunately.

TUCHMAN: The victims are lured by promises of good jobs, education, free housing. The traffickers then often prevent their victims from ever telling the families back home that those dreams have been lost.

KAY BUCK, COALITION TO ABOLISH SLAVERY & TORTURE: The one thing that people don't realize is that most traffickers have pretty strong ties to the communities where they traffic. And what that means is that there's some trust.

TUCHMAN: This month, a massive campaign was launched by the inter-American development bank to warn people in Latin American countries.

HORN: Traffickers see human beings as commodities. And as commodities, they see them as dispensable and disposable.

TUCHMAN: As for Flor, she says she escaped her prison after a month and a half and is now living here under a special visa, trying to bring her children in too. But a memory of her trafficker haunts her.

FLOR: She said, dogs have more rights in this country than we have.

TUCHMAN: She said dogs have more rights than you?

FLOR: Yes than myself.

TUCHMAN: What did you think?

FLOR: In some way, she was saying the truth.

TUCHMAN: For her, the truth is, thousands of people living secretly in the land of the free are not free at all. Tom Foreman, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: As the day continues, we'll take you to Tijuana, Mexico, and into the dark world of sex slavery. Teenaged girls kidnapped and taken to the U.S. when Trafficking 24 Hours at the Border continues.


COOPER: Over the course of 24 hours, this border between the U.S. and Mexico sees a lot of trafficking. But in our special coverage heads deep into the night, we're about to see the worst of what happens here. The selling of young people to be used as sex objects. Again, here's CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His voice echoes through this neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico. It is a song without words.

Only melancholy haunting sounds from a child who was once bought and sold. He (INAUDIBLE) on the U.S./Mexican border. On the weekends, Americans flock here to party. Just five blocks away is the dark side few outsiders have seen. This is what police call the tolerance zone. It is a maze of dark alleys lined with small bars and young prostitutes. In this zone, prostitution is legal, but sex workers must be at least 18. Many don't look a day over 15 and some may be even younger than that.

TRANSLATION: I don't like it, but what can I do? I started this a year ago when I was 17.

GUTIERREZ: It's hard to know just how old this teenage prostitute really is. Because they all say they're at least 18. The teenager says she was lured to the border from another state in Mexico and that she's doing this to earn money to send to her family. Trafficking experts say young women like her would be even more profitable commodities in the U.S. TRANSLATION: I've had guys ask me to go with them. I would like to leave here if I could. Some people have even tried to take me to the United States.

GUTIERREZ: This is how international traffickers lure young women into the underground world of sex slavery, where they might disappear forever.

CHARLES SONG, COALITION TO ABOLISH SLAVERY AND TRAFFICKING: People will be promised different jobs or different opportunities to come here to the United States, or they'll actually be literally kidnapped and forced to come over here.

GUTIERREZ: Federal authorities say Mexico's predominantly a source country, where human beings are found, bought and sold by traffickers. According to CIA estimates, nearly 18,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. A third are from Latin America and no one knows how many are minors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They range from ages 14 to 18. Maybe younger. They've got a lot of makeup on (INAUDIBLE) by their pimps.

GUTIERREZ: Marisa Bava is a human rights activist who works with other groups to protect the most vulnerable. Street children who work in the sex trade.

MARISA BAVA, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: They have no place to go. So they roam the streets. They do survival tricks. They do other things that you don't want to mention because they don't do them because they're bad, but because it's a need.

GUTIERREZ: The main thing children need is a place where they can feel safe.

JORGE BEDOYA, SHELTER DIRECTOR: We have three sleeping areas.

GUTIERREZ: We were granted rare access to this government run shelter in Tijuana, where sexually exploited boys are counseled, educated and given a second chance at childhood. Jorge Bedoya is the director.

BEDOYA: We're most of the time full, because we have a problem with street children.

GUTIERREZ: It was here at the shelter where I first met the boy with the voice who sings songs that only have meaning to him. We'll call him Tomas.

TRANSLATION: When I sing, I forget everything. All the hurt, the rejection and the abuse. I express my feelings by singing.

GUTIERREZ: Tomas also expresses his feelings by writing. He shows me his journal, inside, the tragic story of a mother who did not want him and a life of abuse that led him to the streets when he was only 11.

TRANSLATION: My mother and stepfather threw me out of the house. I was crying on the street and a man came and took me home.

GUTIERREZ: Tomas ran away from a series of child molesters until one day, he says, he met a woman with whom he thought he'd be safe.

TRANSLATION: The woman took me home with her and fed me. Within a week, I learned it was a brothel. I had nowhere to go so I stayed there. The woman gave me things. In exchange, I had to prostitute myself.

GUTIERREZ: Tomas says he was forced to wear makeup and dress as a girl for clients, some of whom were American men. He says he lived this twisted existence for four years as a child prostitute until he learned he was about to be trafficked.

TRANSLATION: I found out they wanted to sell me to a person. He offered to buy me, but I said no.

GUTIERREZ: This time when he ran away, he managed to find his way to Jorge's shelter. Sister Doris says there's no shortage of exploited children in her shelter either. She bought it and runs it with money she made in California real estate.

SISTER DORIS: In here, we're going to show you the bedrooms.

GUTIERREZ: A far cry from how she lives now.

SISTER DORIS: In here, we have three beds sort of crammed together as you can see.

GUTIERREZ: She has space for six kids, but 16 live here.

SISTER DORIS: We actually are hoping and started praying for a center that will house as many as 80 to 100 children.

GUTIERREZ: Sister Doris says it was a calling from above that compelled her to dedicate her life to the children. From her own money, she pays tuition so that each one can go to school. For many here, it's the first time in a classroom. She says every boy and girl here has a story of heartache and stolen innocence. Stories she's heard for 10 years.

SISTER DORIS: And I cannot fathom or even understand how any man, whether it's your child or your present wife or what, that you would violate her. I cannot understand that. They're just absolutely in shambles. And this is why we have so many that do attend, go into prostitution for that reason, they say well I'm not worth anything.

GUTIERREZ: In the tolerance zone, child prostitutes learn a tragic lesson, that the value of their lives is ultimately measured in the desires and wallets of strangers. Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


COOPER: A look at Trafficking, 24 Hours on the Border continues in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi I'm Heidi Collins in New York. Back to Trafficking, 24 Hours on the Border, in just a minute. But first these business headlines. The Dow ended the day with a gain of almost 16 points. It capped a week though that saw blue chips take their worst beating since January. Crude oil fell below $69 a barrel for the first time in five weeks. But analysts say fears about potential supply disruptions in Nigeria and Iran will keep prices from sinking much lower than that.

And Rolling Rock, well this Bud's for you. Anheuser Busch is buying the brand popular in the northeast from a Belgium firm for $82 million. Anheuser Busch already has a 50 percent share of the U.S. beer market.

We will have more in just a moment. For now, though, more of Trafficking 24 Hours on the Border.


COOPER: Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the trafficking continues, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Thanks for watching this special edition of "360." I'm Anderson Cooper.

Good evening again. Tonight a special edition of 360. Tracking a fugitive, the hunt for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.


Tracking the money trail. How can fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs be raking in millions of dollars a month while he's on the run? We're keeping them honest.

The broken family who believes they've been cursed. How the wrath of Warren Jeffs changed their lives forever.

And the lost boys.

I'm totally an outcast now.

He ran away from the faith. Others were kicked out and now they must start their lives all over again and try to escape the shadows of a painful past. This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, Tracking a Fugitive, The Hunt for Warren Jeffs. Here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Good evening. Tonight, we are tracking the fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. Since he landed on the FBI's ten most wanted list, the FBI says that tips have poured in. But still at this hour, his whereabouts are unknown. A $100,000 bounty is on his head.

To his thousands of followers, Warren Jeffs is a messiah, a prophet who speaks for God. To others, he's a mad man, who has turned children into brides and destroyed families. He's accused of sexual contact with a minor. But that's only the beginning. Tonight, you'll hear stories of horror from those who knew Jeffs and dared to leave his sect.

Tonight, we'll get you as close as possible to Warren Jeffs, revealing his secret hideouts and his secret sources of income. Warren Jeffs may on be on the run, but his empire is vast. It is remote. And as you're about to see, it is surreal.


COOPER: Warren Jeffs is preparing his followers for the kingdom of heaven. But his kingdom here on earth is shrinking by the day. For the last 50 years, Colorado City, Arizona and the neighboring town of Hildale, Utah have been home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


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