Readout of Justice Department Leadership Meeting on Human Smuggling and Trafficking Networks

On Nov 3, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division convened a meeting on efforts to combat human smuggling and trafficking networks as part of the department’s work on Joint Task Force Alpha (JTF Alpha). Participants included Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, the U.S. Attorneys in districts along the southern border of the United States, Acting Deputy Director Patrick J. Lechleitner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and additional members of JTF Alpha.

The meeting focused on: discussing JTF Alpha’s investigations and prosecutions, and the challenges thereto; supporting JTF Alpha’s efforts to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific human smuggling and trafficking networks operating in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras; and identifying ways to strengthen efforts to disrupt and dismantle  human smuggling and trafficking networks, including those that abuse or exploit those being smuggled, pose national security risks, or have links to transnational organized crime. The meeting discussed multiple examples of migrants being killed, sexually assaulted, kidnapped and abused by the smuggling and trafficking networks, as well as exploring those networks’ links with cartels, gangs and weapons smuggling.

Assistant Attorney General Polite highlighted how this joint law enforcement effort has already resulted in a number of successful prosecutions, new indictments, increased forfeitures and stronger international partnerships. He praised the partnership among ICE, CBP and other participating federal law enforcement agencies including FBI and DEA, in concert with JTF Alpha prosecutors and attorneys, to coordinate investigative resources and focus on the most prolific human smuggling and trafficking networks. The meeting also recognized the key role played by our law enforcement partners in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Monaco both reaffirmed the Justice Department’s commitment to combat human smuggling and trafficking networks and noted the serious risk of violence, injury and even death that too often results from exploitation of migrants by transnational criminal organizations. 

U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas, Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman for the Southern District of California, Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas and Acting U.S. Attorney Glenn McCormick for the District of Arizona spoke about smuggling trends in their respective districts and the ways in which JTF Alpha resources and enhanced law enforcement efforts have been and could be used against the most prolific and dangerous smuggling organizations. ICE Acting Deputy Director Lechleitner and CBP Acting Commissioner Miller spoke about the need to continue coordinating law enforcement strategy and prioritizing resources and efforts in support of JTF Alpha. The Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) spoke about the important collaborative work being done with our partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Numerous components of the Criminal Division that are part of JTF Alpha – including the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Office of Enforcement Operations and the Office of International Affairs – also participated in the meeting, along with representatives from the Civil Rights Division and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

The meeting ended with the participants confirming their steadfast support and prioritization of JTF Alpha and focus on its continued success. 

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