Biden administration targets migrant smuggling with Operation Sentinel

Immigration

A smuggler takes migrants, mostly from Central American countries, on a small inflatable raft towards U.S. soil in Roma, Texas Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Roma, a town of 10,000 people with historic buildings and boarded-up storefronts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is the latest epicenter of illegal crossings, where growing numbers of families and children are entering the United States to seek asylum. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The United States is launching an operation to identify and target human smugglers, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday, as the Biden administration struggles with record numbers of migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that Operation Sentinel would seek to block smugglers’ ability to engage in “travel, trade, and finance” in the United States.

The operation will aim to identify smugglers and target their activities by revoking travel documents, suspending trade entities, and freezing financial assets, DHS said.

“The goal is to disrupt every facet of the logistical network of these criminal networks,” Mayorkas said.

DHS said smugglers “pose significant dangers to migrants,” noting that Border Patrol agents had found the bodies of 250 migrants who died en route to the United States in fiscal year 2020.

Migrants from Central America and elsewhere often use smugglers to travel to the border and are prone to extortion, kidnapping and other violence.

“Smuggling operations continue to lie and exploit vulnerable populations to promote their criminal enterprise – the health and safety of migrants does not influence their lucrative ambition,” said Troy Miller, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

So far this fiscal year, CBP officials have rescued 4,766 migrants, which is close to the 5,232 rescued in all of fiscal 2020, Miller told NewsNation’s Border Report. This includes lost migrant children who said were abandoned by smugglers when they couldn’t keep up in the desert of West Texas and New Mexico and the thick brush of South Texas.

Reuters and Border Report contributed to this report.

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