A new federal operation will target transnational criminal organizations involved in smuggling migrants into the U.S. who put profit over human life, officials announced Tuesday.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will lead “Operation Sentinel” to disrupt the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle migrants into the U.S. while working with Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, State Department, FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a call with reporters Tuesday.
Transnational criminal organizations will be sanctioned, their visas or other travel documents will be revoked and organizations will not be able to access their funds, Mayorkas said.
“We aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminal organizations the ability to engage in travel, trade and finance in the United States,” Mayorkas said. “We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network that these organizations use to succeed.”
Human smugglers regularly abandon women and children who cannot keep up with the group while traversing rural areas and exposed to the elements, according to Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller. The agency frequently rescues migrants left behind who experience severe injuries, dehydration and other ailments because they’re left without food, water or direction, he said.
“Let me be direct: To those of you who are smuggling people into the United States we know who you are and we are coming for you,” Miller said. (RELATED: Officials Say Human Smugglers Bringing Migrants Into The US Illegally By The Hundreds)
“We will take everything we can from you, as I speak today we are revoking your visas to enter the U.S. … we are suspending your ability to engage in any trade with the U.S. government and we will be freezing money you are using to smuggle people into our country. This is only the beginning,” Miller added.
CBP officials have rescued 4,766 migrants this year and found around 5,200 migrants abandoned by smugglers in 2020, Miller said. Officials found around 250 migrants who died while crossing illegally in 2020.
“As we work together to address migration flows and as we seek to facilitate orderly and humane immigration, the smuggler is our enemy,” State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Ian Brownlee said. “Smugglers disregard our borders and our laws while endangering the lives of those they smuggle. This operation allows us to both protect our borders and to protect would-be immigrants from those who trade in the desperation of others.”
CBP officials encountered more than 172,000 migrants including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors in March alone, and Mayorkas said officials are on track to apprehend more migrants in 2021 than in the last 20 years.
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