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DHS announces new anti-human smuggling operation

DHS announces new anti-human smuggling operation

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasCanadian ambassador calls for close coordination in handling of US border Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation DeSantis: Florida officers to respond to 'border security crisis' in Texas, Arizona MORE on Tuesday announced a new operation targeting transnational criminal organizations involved in smuggling migrants, as part of the Biden administration's border and immigration policy.

Mayorkas said Operation Sentinel will be led by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in collaboration with the FBI, State Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as law enforcement agencies in Mexico and Central America.

"We know all too well these organizations put profit over human life with devastating consequences," Mayorkas said on a call with reporters.

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Smuggling plays a significant role in regional migration, with criminal groups promoting real or perceived benefits to vulnerable populations in Mexico, Central America and beyond seeking entry into the United States.

According to a 2019 study by the RAND Corporation, revenue from human smuggling originating in the Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — were as high as $2.3 billion in 2017.

Smuggling organizations often use the same routes as drug traffickers, and smuggled migrants risk being caught up in other criminal networks, including sex trafficking networks.

"We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network these organizations use to succeed," said Mayorkas.

Mayorkas and other administration officials on the call outlined targeted sanctions like withdrawal of U.S. visas, and limitations on access to the U.S. financial system as some of the actions to be taken against smugglers under Operation Sentinel.

Ian Brownlee, assistant secretary of State at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, told reporters that more than 100 visas have already been revoked under the program.

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Brownlee and Mayorkas were joined on the press call by Tae Johnson, the acting director of ICE, and Troy Miller, the senior official performing the duties of the commissioner at CBP.

The focus on smuggling is part of the Biden administration's plan to address the root causes of regional migration, which has led to spikes in apprehension numbers at the southwest border, including in 2014, 2019 and 2021.

Vice President Harris has been tasked with addressing the numerous issues driving migration from Northern Triangle countries.

In the first half of fiscal 2021, U.S. border authorities encountered 569,879 migrants either crossing the border between ports of entry or applying for asylum at ports of entry, putting this year's numbers on track to exceed 2019's total of 977,509 encounters.