Major Smuggler of Immigrants from Mideast, Africa, etc. Arrested in Costa Rica

Nicaraguan known as 'Mama Africa' specialized in moving 'special-interest aliens' to the U.S.

By Todd Bensman on July 31, 2019
Chuck Holton
Emigrants on the move from Africa, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka through Costa Rica in December 2018

Reuters is reporting the bust of a major Costa Rica and Panama human smuggling operation "suspected of smuggling migrants from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean through Central America and toward the United States."

The national security significance of this operation is not explained in any of the reporting, especially that a long-targeted Nicaraguan smuggler based in Costa Rica was finally busted after years of American pursuit. She goes by the name of "Mama Africa," and she specialized in moving "special-interest aliens" from terror-prone nations like Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As often reported here at CIS, these kinds of migrants are regarded in U.S. homeland security circles as at higher risk of committing acts of terrorism after they arrive at the U.S. southern border and request political asylum.

Although taking a background seat, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations division (HSI) has long sought to pull Mama Africa offline and will be content to let the Panamanians and Costa Ricans take credit. Although she is Nicaraguan by birth, she, her husband, and a son operated mainly out of Costa Rica, which I visited in December, tracking special-interest alien migration coming up through Panama. I reported that while Panama and Costa Rica have a bilateral agreement to move the migrants through their countries on buses along a series of well-stocked government shelters, once they get to Nicaragua, they need smugglers again.

That's where Mama Africa and her networks came in. HSI sources tell me that since at least 2017 (but no doubt for years before then), Mama Africa's crew has moved thousands of special-interest aliens to the U.S. border, first to Honduras via boat, then Guatemala and Mexico, on to any of the American border states.

Mama Africa's husband, "Mohammad", ran the boats that transported the immigrants along the Nicaraguan shoreline up to Honduras, then delivered them to an affiliated network that kept them coordinated and moving on into Mexico. (Government sources tell me Mohammed has crossed into the United States, filed a political asylum claim and most likely will never face charges; long story).

Recently, I wrote that historically large numbers of Africans and special-interest aliens were moving through the Colombia-Panama-Costa Rica route toward the U.S. border right now, up to 35,000 of them. I'm told that while the Mexican government's national guard troops are doing all they can to halt Spanish-speaking migrants from reaching the U.S. border, they're letting all migrants who speak other languages through.

Last week in Deming, N.M., I saw a group of eight Brazilians who told town officials – in translated Portuguese – that the Mexican military had waved them through while detaining all the Hondurans around them. So special-interest aliens and other kinds of extra-continental migrants from around the world evidently are free to get to our border through the Mexican military gauntlet.

No doubt Mama Africa and her crew were making a fortune moving these migrants to our border at an average of $500 a head. Hers was a key connective middle-route network that linked with others in South America, as well as those even further abroad in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Altogether, migrants might pay between $7,000 and $20,000 to be smuggled to the United States, according to the Washington Post. The absence of her well-entrenched middle network will slow the 35,000 for a time. This is good news. But it's a problem-management story, because the expectation is that Mama Africa will eventually be replaced by other human-smuggling entrepreneurs. At least with this operation, those who move in on Mama Africa's former business will know there's substantial risk accompanying any reward.