Chilean criminal gangs take advantage of the visa exemption to operate in the United States

The authorities have warned about the presence of gangs that break into and loot wealthy residential areas in several regions of the country.

A worrying wave of robberies is hitting wealthy residential neighborhoods across the United States, and everything indicates that they are being perpetrated by Chilean criminals who abuse the Visa Waiver Program.

In recent years, several states in the country have been warning about the criminal activity of Chilean gang members who take advantage of the fact that citizens of their nationality do not require a visa to visit the United States for 90 days and exploit this advantage to enter the United States and commit criminal acts.

"They come here for a few months. They engage in this activity, and they travel around the country. If folks do get arrested, history shows, they just bring in more folks behind them," said Lt. Bryan Brecht of the San Diego Police Department.

In La Jolla, California, where there are mansions and exclusive environments, at least six robberies have been reported in the last two years, with no indication that the situation is improving, and the problem is worsening in other areas of that state.

"In Laguna Hills alone, we've seen 84 home invasions reported in the last six months by these groups," California Republican Representative Young Kim reported in June last year.

Local police suspect that a Chilean organized crime syndicate arrives in the country on tourist visas, commits robberies for a few months, and then moves to other areas of the country, making it difficult to detect and capture them.

The magnitude of the problem is also evident in Michigan, where the Oakland County Sheriff's Office has had to establish a task force to address mansion burglaries.

According to Fox 2, between September and December of last year alone, between 30 and 40 robberies were recorded in Oakland County, with losses in the millions in jewelry, cash and other valuables. Sheriff Michael Bouchard highlighted that criminals use sophisticated technology, such as vehicle trackers and frequency jamming equipment, to carry out their misdeeds and evade security systems.

Over the past year in Pennsylvania, Montgomery County arrested at least five Chilean men linked to a South American robbery ring, NBC Philadelphia reported.

Many robberies in Oklahoma have also been attributed to this Chilean thief ring, which has left a trail of million-dollar losses in its wake.

The situation is repeated in Nevada, Maryland and Arizona, where residents of affluent neighborhoods have been victims of similar robberies, with significant losses of money and property.

"These are Chilean burglary crews that are coming into the country on a Visa Waiver Program," denounced Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther.

"They'll come in as if they're going to be tourists, but then they immediately start burglarizing homes and property and doing smash-and-grabs, and then they make their way across the country," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer also commented on the matter.

The outreach program

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of certain countries to enter the United States without obtaining a visa, only with an electronic travel authorization. Although several nations benefit from this program, Chile is the only South American country included in the program.

To obtain this travel authorization, Chilean citizens only need to access the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), where biographical, but not biometric, information is collected. The requirements to obtain this authorization are simple: have an electronic passport, answer a few questions and pay a fee of only $21.

The ease and accessibility of the process, along with the lack of exhaustive investigation of "tourists," constitute precisely one of the main problems that has facilitated the arrival and establishment of Chilean gangs in the United States.

Theft cases have multiplied over time, and authorities in different jurisdictions are seeking urgent solutions to contain this alarming trend.

Immediate solutions are urgently needed

Spitzer has called for stricter measures for issuing visas to Chilean citizens, urging a more rigorous background check process by U.S. authorities.

"It just means they'll have to go through a more introspective process and the country of Chile will have to give us background check, or these people will not be allowed to come into the United States," he opined.

Last year, then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers also called for removing Chile from the Visa Waiver program.

Even several Democrats expressed concern about the "noncompliance with passenger vetting requirements" for Chilean citizens who want to enter the United States through ESTA.

The process of acquiring visas

While Chileans only have to complete a few simple steps to enter the United States, other Latin American citizens have to go through much more complete and even cumbersome processes. This involves completing lengthy forms, paying higher fees, scheduling appointments, and preparing for interviews that may require a wide variety of documents. However, this more detailed process has allowed for a comprehensive review that seeks to ensure the security of the United States.