President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday announced a new anti-trafficking and human smuggling task force operation in the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico.
Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the initiative during a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei while in Guatemala on her first official foreign trip.
“Transnational human smuggling and trafficking networks pose a serious criminal threat. These networks not only seek to profit from the exploitation of migrants, but also routinely expose them to violence, injury, and even death,” Attorney General Merrick Garland write in a memo to U.S. attorneys.
“The Joint Task Force will investigate and prosecute those who are criminally smuggling and trafficking individuals into the United States, with a particular focus on individuals and networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger those smuggled, pose national security threats, or have links to transnational organized crime,” Garland wrote.
According to The Hill, the Department of Justice has rescued more than 4,000 migrants at the southwest border abandoned by smugglers.
The task force consists of federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas and Western District of Texas, prosecutors from the Department of Justice criminal and civil rights division, Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol law enforcement officials.
“We will take action to identify smugglers and their associates to ensure that we enhance the security of the U.S. border, and help save the lives of vulnerable people these organizations routinely prey upon,” Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, said.
During her visit to the region, Vice President Harris announced that the Biden administration will invest $48 million in affordable housing, agriculture businesses, and entrepreneurs in Guatemala.
“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home. At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States Mexico border: Do not come,” Vice President Harris said.
While speaking to reporters, Harris also announced the creation of an anti-corruption task force and a young women’s empowerment initiative in the region.