The U.S. Department of Justice announced this week a “historic” operation that led to several arrests and the “first-ever” extraditions from Guatemala to the United States on charges of human smuggling.
During an announcement at the Joint Task Force Alpha in Texas, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division spoke with law enforcement leaders to discuss disrupting and dismantling human smuggling networks operating along the Southwest Border and throughout the United States.
“JTFA was created by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in June 2021, in partnership with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, to strengthen the department’s overall efforts to combat these crimes based on the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling emanating from Central America and impacting our border communities. JTFA’s goal is to disrupt and dismantle those human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, with a focus on networks that endanger, abuse, or exploit migrants, present national security risks, or engage in other types of transnational organized crime,” the DOJ said in a press release.
“Since its creation, JTFA has successfully increased coordination and collaboration between the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and other interagency law enforcement participants, and with foreign law enforcement partners, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico; targeted organizations that have the most impact on the United States, and coordinated significant smuggling indictments and extradition efforts in U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the country. To date, JTFA’s work with its partners has resulted in criminal charges and over 183 domestic and international arrests of leaders, organizers, and significant facilitators of human smuggling activities, several dozen convictions, significant prison sentences, seizure of drugs, firearms, ammunition, and vehicles, and substantial asset forfeiture,” the release added.
“This case demonstrates the deadly threat that human smuggling groups pose to the migrants they endanger and exploit,” said Attorney General Garland. “It also demonstrates that Joint Task Force Alpha and the entire Justice Department are doubling down on our efforts to disrupt and dismantle dangerous human smuggling operations and to find and bring to justice the perpetrators – no matter where they are.”
“JTFA was created to investigate and prosecute the international networks responsible for human smuggling activities that exploit and victimize migrants,” said Assistant Attorney General Polite. “The extradition of four prolific smugglers from Guatemala – in addition to the other cases and investigations we highlighted during this summit – demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding accountable criminal organizations that prey upon the vulnerable for profit. Through JTFA, our message to human smugglers is clear: using the combined might of U.S. law enforcement and its international partners, we will continue to aggressively target you and your illegal operations both within the United States and south of the border, using every tool, technique, and resource at our disposal.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas is fully committed to working with our international and federal law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle transnational human smuggling organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas. “Through our combined efforts we will hold accountable human smugglers who callously disregard the safety of the people they transport. We are dedicated to ensuring that all victims of these groups receive justice.”
“These extraditions speak to the collaboration in this Administration across the federal government and with our partners throughout the hemisphere,” said Deputy Secretary John K. Tien of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “From the frontline efforts of our workforce at Customs and Border Protection to the investigative capabilities we leverage at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the seamless coordination with our partners at the Justice Department, we are unwavering in our commitment to holding transnational criminal networks accountable for human smuggling and their abuse of migrants.”
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Author: Martin Walsh
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