US launches ‘unprecedented’ operation against human trafficking

Los Angeles (CNN) — The Joe Biden administration has launched an “unprecedented” operation to disrupt human smuggling networks amid a continuing influx of migrants across the US-Mexico border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN exclusively. .

The operation, which includes the deployment of hundreds of people throughout Latin America and a multi-million dollar investment, comes as the US continues to deal with a large flow of migrants towards the border with Mexico, including a caravan of up to 5,000 people that is week they travel north from southern Mexico.

“We’ve had a whole-of-government effort to target smuggling organizations. It’s not just about Homeland Security Investigations, it’s not just about U.S. Customs and Border Protection. But we’re working very carefully with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a number of agencies within the Justice Department and, of course, our partners in Mexico,” Mayorkas told CNN.

Alejandro Mayorkas, United States Secretary of Homeland Security.

“I think it’s scale and scope; it’s tactics and strategy. It’s really unprecedented,” he added.

Mayorkas attends the Ninth Summit of the Americas, hosted by the United States in Los Angeles. The gathering of nearly two dozen heads of state from the Western Hemisphere focused on stabilizing and investing in the region to, in part, stem the flow of migration, a problem that has dogged US presidents, including Joe Biden, for years.

Mass migration within the hemisphere was back in the spotlight this week, as thousands of migrants joined a caravan headed for the southern border of the United States. Asked about how the latest operation applies to that caravan, Mayorkas stressed that the administration is “attacking the smuggling organizations that exploit these people.”

The so-called “Sting Operation” (which in Spanish can be translated as operation sting), led by the Department of Homeland Security, has so far produced about 20,000 “disruptive actions” that include arrests and prosecutions, property seizures and criminal investigations. depending on the department. The US has also increased its personnel by more than 1,300 throughout the Western Hemisphere and invested more than $50 million.

In the past eight weeks, nearly 2,000 smugglers have been arrested, marking a 600% increase in law enforcement action taken against such actors compared to efforts in previous years, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The latest operation builds on earlier initiatives by the Biden administration to go after the smugglers migrants often rely on on their way to the US-Mexico border. Last spring, the Department of Homeland Security also announced an effort to crack down on smuggling criminal organizations, along with federal partners.

The Department of Homeland Security also established a new law enforcement and intelligence-gathering unit to monitor the movement of migrants and helped form a task force, led by the Department of Justice, to investigate and prosecute trafficking networks and human trafficking.

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Migration looms over the Summit of the Americas

On the southern US border, a new trend has been taking shape that has posed a challenge to the Biden administration: About 40% of those crossing the border are now from countries outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and The Savior.

More than 6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled their country, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Nicaraguans have also been migrating more and more, as well as Haitians who had moved to the region years ago.

Over the course of the Summit of the Americas, administration officials have acknowledged mass migration in the Western Hemisphere, emphasizing the need for all countries to help ease the flow and create better conditions locally.

The meeting has served as a platform for the Biden administration, the leaders of the countries in the region and the public and private sectors to reach agreements on the way forward to stop the flow of irregular migration.

Biden has set out to demonstrate a level of cohesion in the politics of the two continents, but boycotts by the leaders of several nations, including Mexico and three Central American countries, have stalled the summit.

The leaders of those four countries declined to attend because Biden refused to invite the three autocratic leaders, instead sending lower-level delegations.

Mayorkas dismissed concerns about the absence of key leaders at the summit, telling CNN: “All countries are represented here. So, of course, the president of Mexico is not here, but I was fortunate to see here the Mexican Foreign Minister, Secretary Ebrard, with whom I have worked very closely during my trips to Mexico, as well as with our dialogue continuous. So no, my confidence is intact.”

On Friday, countries attending the Summit of the Americas are expected to sign a migration declaration that aims to outline how the region should share responsibility for welcoming migrants.

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