Major Sex Slavery Ring Busted in Minn. Involves illegal immigrants; Angers Activists

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 22, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

MICHELLE MALKIN, GUEST HOST: Hi, I'm Michelle Malkin reporting tonight for Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us. Our top story tonight is out of Minneapolis, where federal authorities have busted a major sex slavery ring that operated eight brothels across the state by allegedly luring women from other countries and forcing them into prostitution.

As it turns out, 18 of the 25 people indicted in this case were in the country illegally. So immigration authorities were on scene. This drew an angry response from activists, who took to the streets to protest shortly after the raid.

Joining us now from Minneapolis, Attorney Scott Johnson, who blogs for Power Line. And here in studio, immigration attorney Michael Wildes, also the mayor of Englewood, New Jersey. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. Scott, you were in Minneapolis for the U.S. attorney’s press conference there on Monday. What happened? And why has this caused such a raucous in your neck of the woods?

SCOTT JOHNSON, MINNEAPOLIS ATTORNEY: Well, I can answer the first question easier than the second, Michelle. I was at the press conference in which our U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose announced an indictment in a major international human trafficking operation in which 25 defendants had been charged, most of them illegal, exploiting what appears to be a large group of illegal women for the benefit of what appears to be these mostly illegal men.

Why is there this immigration backlash to the story? It's really interesting. One of the news outlets here in Minneapolis reports that attending the press conference yesterday were all the law enforcement agencies which had cooperated in the investigation that resulted in this indictment — our state bureau of Criminal Apprehension, St. Paul police department.

But conspicuous by its absence was the Minneapolis police department. While this operation had gone forward mostly in the city of Minneapolis, and the news outlet reported last night that while this press conference was ongoing, the mayor and police chief were e-mailing the media to say the Minneapolis police officers will not enforce immigration policy. That seems to me the scandal here rather than the one that the people are protesting about.

MALKIN: It's surreal. Is Minneapolis a declared or de facto sanctuary city? That certainly seems to be what the activists there assume.

JOHNSON: Well, I learned from the news reports that in fact we are operating as a sanctuary city in which the chief law enforcement officer and the mayor seem to think that if you're foreign, if you're here illegally, you should be immune from the operation of criminal laws. That would make this just an unbelievably disgusting scandal that would be enforced, I think, probably by the Minneapolis police department, if it were American citizens that were involved on any end of the operation.

MALKIN: Michael, this seems to me insane. Now I understand from the perspective of a mayor wanting to smooth community relations with different communities, and here specifically we're talking about the pro illegal alien activists, but I mean come on. This is a case where it was illegal alien women who were being victimized.

MICHAEL WILDES, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: No doubt immigration is doing its job. The question is, why are they doing it at this opportunity? Are they saying that the illegal aliens are immoral because they frequent a house of ill repute?

They are creating fear and chaos, Michelle, by going into homes throughout the area. Bottom line, they should be going consistently against all violators — employers who give safe haven to people who work illegally, not just the criminal ones.

And the bottom line here is if they're trying to influence the debate in order to get better funding and to sway Congress in one fashion, they have a lot of explaining to do, why in years past, they never came forward. Why for so many years, they didn't enforce employer sanctions.

We do I-9 audits all the time. How many employees are working illegally? And why is it finally, Michelle, that they didn't have any information on the "T" visa? Why is it that we see ICE, immigration on ICE? It's literally a show now, because if they can get media to make their case to Congress…


WILDES: Why is it that we don't learn about the "T" visa, which is a benefit for a victim of trafficking that immigration puts forward? Why isn't immigration in suits at press conferences explaining that we are a country of immigrants and that we are going to go after the bad guys, but we're going to leave the good guys alone?

MALKIN: I don't know what you want from ICE and these federal law enforcement officials. They cooperated on many levels with the local police department there. This is not about targeting brown people or people of color as a lot of these groups are whining.

WILDES: I think this is a questionable collaboration.

MALKIN: In fact, they're protecting people. And don't you think it sends a good deterrent message for immigration to be out there, to warn other people who would exploit illegal aliens that you can't put women in slavery and get away with it?

WILDES: Agreed. Except what they should be doing is developing relationships and not severing them or smothering them in communities. They asked for permission to park in a church nearby. They went randomly through restaurants in the area. If they're going do this, they need to do it judiciously. That's what Lady Liberty is but a few miles from the studio about. We are a nation of immigrants. We will put away drug traffickers and slave traffickers, but we will act judiciously when we prosecute the law as well.

MALKIN: Scott, what was the U.S. Attorney's office and the local police department supposed to do in this case? They wanted to have them all put smiley face buttons on their pins. Would that make the community there feel better about what obviously was a long-standing investigation? In fact, there was a local police officer who was killed in the line of duty undercover getting this case underway.

JOHNSON: That's true, Michelle. This case goes back to December 2005, early 2006. Officer Vick, the St. Paul police department officer, was murdered not on this case, but while working undercover and was involved in the investigation for the St. Paul City police department that got this thing off the ground.

But local law enforcement didn't have the resources to pursue the national, international aspects of this trafficking operation. So the investigation, as far as I understand it, was led by federal law enforcement authorities doing a good job, the folks at ICE who were present at the press conference yesterday, along with the local law enforcement authorities who had gotten the investigation off the ground and cooperated in the arrests that took place on Monday.

WILDES: Michelle, no one's arguing that they didn't do a good job. I served at the U.S. Attorney's office. I actually went on a raid. I can tell you that they go with the best of intentions, but you cannot go beyond the zone. You cannot go into innocent homes and create pandemonium.

Your ancestors and my ancestors, all of us, anyone watching this, more than 250 years ago, we were all products of immigrants. We cannot throw out the good water with the bad.

MALKIN: Is that your impression of the case, Scott, that that's what happened here?

JOHNSON: You know, it's really unbelievable. This international human trafficking sex slavery operation was taking place in residential neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis. That's part one.

WILDES: Then why did they go to restaurants in the area, sir?

JOHNSON: Police departments and they're backed on it.

WILDES: Why did they go to restaurants in the area?

JOHNSON: I'm not familiar.

WILDES: Why did they go through churches? This goes beyond the pale.

MALKIN: Well, I don't think we should be second-guessing how the investigation happened. The fact is that these women are far better off now. Gentlemen, thank you.

WILDES: Agreed.

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