The Snakehead is an excellent and thrilling non-fiction account of the human trafficking organization of Cheng Chiu Ping, better known as Sister Ping. Using New York City as her base of operations, Sister Ping ran her organization from 1984 until 2000. People that she smuggled into the country largely from the Fujian province of China.
"Patrick Radden Keefe has written a vivid non fiction thriller. The Snakehead reads like a Chinese-American version of The Sopranos, except that the mob boss is a grandmother who runs a human smuggling enterprise, and the story is true." Jane Mayer, author of The Darkside.
Her smuggling operations did not go without incident, and made headlines several times. One major incident was the wreck of the cargo ship Golden Venture. It ran aground in June of 1993 and when officials went to the ship they found 286 would-be immigrants in its hold, many of whom were near starvation. Ten people drowned in the incident.
This book is a fascinating look at the world of Chinese immigrants during the 1980s and 90s, and at the rise of Sister Ping and her criminal organization. Sister Ping was arrested in 2000 and convicted on several counts, including conspiring to commit alien smuggling and hostage. She is currently serving time in Danbury, Connecticut.
The author manages to expose what is a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, as well as the dark characters that are involved in human trafficking. Keefe tells the story of people who risk everything to get here, and then what happens once they do get here.