HARALSON COUNTY, Ga.,None - Haralson County authorities said a recent traffic stop along Interstate 20 has turned into a first-of-its-kind test of Georgia's new human trafficking law.
Two Texas men face human trafficking charges after deputies found 10 suspected illegal immigrants riding in the back of their SUV.
Frank Vasquez and his brother Jessie said they were paid $50 a head to drive the group from Houston to a drop house in Atlanta.
The suspected illegal immigrants each paid between $600 and $700 for the trip, but Haralson County Sheriff Eddie Mixon said some of them couldn't afford the tab and would have likely wound up working off their debt with the traffickers.
"Owing money, people take advantage of them ... that's why a lot of times they end up in prostitution-type rings and that sort of thing," Mixon told Channel 2's Tony Thomas.
Mixon said Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents told him that this is the first time Georgia's new human trafficking law has been used.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the enhanced law in May. It took effect July 1.
"We are kind of excited in a way to test the waters on this new law to see how effective it's going to be," Mixon told Thomas.
While Mixon is proud of the effort made by his deputies, he's also frustrated that his department is having to pay for this type of crime fighting. He believes the federal government should be doing more.
"I'm a little frustrated that the federal government doesn't stop most of this at the borders," Mixon said.
The arrests come as Haralson County begins a new crime suppression effort paid for by a grant that funds off-duty deputies to do the work. Mixon said he is not sure how long the county will have the grant.
"If they'd guard the borders a lot better, it would help us all," Mixon said.
Authorities said federal agents have taken the 10 suspected illegal immigrants for possible deportation. The men and women are said to be from Guatemala and Honduras.