163 alien smugglers arrested during HSI's 'Southern Crossing' operation

Washington, DC - More than 160 alien smugglers were arrested by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) during a monthlong initiative along the U.S. southwest border that ended May 31.

"Operation Southern Crossing" took place May 1-31, throughout the five HSI areas of responsibility along the southern border: Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Phoenix and San Diego. However, due to the significant levels of human smuggling occurring near and through Texas' Rio Grande Valley, this initiative focused heavily on HSI's investigations and enforcement actions in southeast Texas.

During this successful initiative, HSI special agents made 163 criminal arrests, obtained 60 indictments and 45 convictions. The initiative also netted the seizure of 29 vehicles, nine firearms and more than $35,000 in illicit proceeds.

"The impressive statistics from this initiative demonstrate HSI's call to action to meet the challenge of combating the increase of human smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley area," said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. "Unfortunately, desperate people continue to place their lives in the hands of these smugglers who have no regard for human life."

During Operation Southern Crossing, HSI emphasized its ongoing efforts to disrupt and dismantle the most dangerous and prolific Human Smuggling Organizations (HSOs) and stem the growing crime and violence associated with human smuggling activities.

HSI's human smuggling strategy leverages the full complement of the agency's authorities and resources on HSOs that pose the highest degree of risk to the national security and public safety of United States. HSI's human smuggling investigations are comprehensive, intelligence-driven and use a broad array of methods and advanced techniques to combat these transnational criminal organizations.

In fiscal year 2013, HSI initiated more than 1,700 human smuggling investigations and had 2,718 arrests, 1,854 indictments, 1,802 convictions, and $5,219,924 in asset seizures.

HSI will exploit investigative leads originating from Operation Southern Crossing to identify new criminal organizations as well as further ongoing investigations with the goal of prosecuting associated criminal enterprises.

Human Smuggling Background

Human smuggling is a crime involving the importation of people into a United States via the deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This includes bringing undocumented aliens into a country, as well as the transporting and harboring of illegal aliens already in the U.S.

HSI has embarked on an ambitious strategy to disrupt and dismantle organized human smuggling networks:

  • First, HSI conducts domestic and international intelligence-driven investigations to target human smuggling organizations placing particular emphasis on those smuggling organizations that pose a national security risk, are a significant threat to public safety, smuggle unaccompanied children, engage in violence, abuse and hostage-taking or extortion.
  • Second, HSI coordinates with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Justice as well as its state and local and foreign partners and others, to ensure the aggressive investigation and prosecution of human smuggling organizations globally.
  • Third, HSI targets all aspects of human smuggling networks including, recruiters, brokers, document providers, transporters, stash house operators and corrupt foreign officials that benefit from human smuggling. HSI further seeks to remove their profit incentive through the identification and seizure of assets and criminal proceeds.

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