- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Fed up with watching smugglers drop children from the Border Wall or dumping them in the roiling waters of the Rio Grande, Homeland Security said Tuesday it was kicking off a new operation to identify and slap penalties on them, including revoking visas and freezing assets in U.S. banks.

“We know who you are, and we are coming for you. We will take everything we can from you,” said Troy Miller, the acting commissioner at Customs and Border Protection, which will lead the initiative, dubbed Operation Sentinel.

Amid the new border surge. targeting smugglers is perhaps one of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats, and border security advocates and immigrant-rights activists.

The surge has been a major financial boon for smugglers, increasing revenue by magnitudes, as migrants pay $8,000 or more for the trip north. That money is divided among large-scale criminal cartels that control the routes across the border, and the individual operators who do the driving and housing of migrants along the journey.

“We aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminal organizations the ability to engage in travel, trade and finance in the United States,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Those smugglers often treat migrants as commodities, stacking them into semi trucks, crowding them into stash houses and extorting more money to release them to finish their journeys in the U.S.

Hundreds of migrants are left to die in the border region each year by smugglers who won’t stop to wait for those who get sick or struggle to keep up during the trip across the border and deeper into the U.S.

Operation Sentinel will rope in the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Department, as well as the three Homeland Security agencies that handle immigration: CBP, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The State Department said Tuesday that it has already revoked 100 visas as part of the operation.

Smuggling organizations control the avenues of approach to the U.S., charging most migrants a “mafia fee” to cross the boundary. But the journey from Mexico, Central America and beyond to the border, and then from the border deeper into the U.S., relies on independent operators acting as foot guides, drivers, stash house operators and scouts.

Mr. Mayorkas indicated all of those are potential targets.

“We are going to focus on every level of the organization — those individuals who are central to its logistics as well as those who participate knowingly at the periphery,” he said.

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