DHS Announces Operation to Target Criminal Smuggling Organizations

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Image of the CBP seal. A blue eagle holds an American flag shield in the foreground. Beneath the shield is a banner on which CBP's core values of vigilance, service, and integrity are written. In the background, blue, yellow, and green lines traverse a globe depicting the northern hemisphere. WASHINGTON — Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas today announced a new counter-network targeting operation focused on transnational criminal organizations affiliated with the smuggling of migrants. 

“Transnational criminal organizations put profit over human life, with devastating consequences,” said Secretary Mayorkas.  “With the help of our federal and foreign partners, we aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminals the ability to engage in travel, trade, and finance in the United States. We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network that these organizations use to succeed.” 

The new anti-smuggling effort, called Operation Sentinel, is a collaborative effort with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice. 

“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 CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller.  “This operation is designed to disrupt every facet of the logistical network of these criminal organizations.  Our goal is to enhance the security of the U.S. border and help save the lives of those who are preyed upon by these unscrupulous criminals.” 

“ICE agents combat cross-border criminal activity every day to ensure the overall safety, security and well-being of our nation,” said Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson. “Collaborating on this endeavor with our partners amplifies our ability to disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations that exploit and dehumanize people.” 

“We are proud to be part of this effort to stop transnational criminal organizations and their networks from smuggling human beings across our borders,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee. 

Partners in Operation Sentinel will target all personnel and identifiable resources that transnational criminal organizations require to operate.  Utilizing the full breadth of domestic and foreign authorities, data, analytic capability and capacity, Operation Sentinel will map the organizations’ networks; target their members, associates, and assets; and employ a series of targeted actions and sanctions against them.  Examples of these actions include: 

  • Revocation of travel documents
  • Suspension and debarment of trade entities
  • Freezing of bank accounts and other financial assets tied to TCO logistical networks.

Transnational criminal organizations pose significant dangers to migrants as they not only seek to profit from their exploitation but also have little regard for their wellbeing, exposing them to violent encounters, injury, and death.  These organizations are complicit in sexual assaults, human trafficking, and abandonment of vulnerable migrants – including tender-aged children. In Fiscal Year 2020, Border Patrol located 250 migrants who died during their journey.


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