Attorney General Announces Initiatives to Combat Human Smuggling and Trafficking and to Fight Corruption in Central America

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced a series of steps that the Department of Justice is taking to address the threats posed by both corruption and by transnational human smuggling and trafficking networks.

Attorney General Garland announced the establishment of Joint Task Force Alpha, a law enforcement task force that will marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

“Transnational human smuggling and trafficking networks pose a serious criminal threat,” said Attorney General Garland. “These networks profit from the exploitation of migrants and routinely expose them to violence, injury, and death. The joint efforts we are announcing today will combine investigative, prosecutorial, and capacity-building efforts of both the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Our focus will remain on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime. Together, we will combat these threats where they originate and operate.”

In addition to the work of the Joint Task Force, Attorney General Garland directed the Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), in coordination with the State Department, to enhance the assistance provided to counterparts in the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico to support their efforts to prosecute smuggling and trafficking networks in their own courts.

The Joint Task Force will consist of federal prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border (District of Arizona, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, along with law enforcement agents and analysts from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol. The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration will also be part of the Task Force. And it will work closely with Operation Sentinel, a recently announced DHS operation focused on countering transnational criminal organizations affiliated with migrant smuggling.

“In our continued efforts to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, and smuggling and trafficking enterprises, the Department of Homeland Security will partner with the Department of Justice to launch Joint Task Force Alpha,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “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.”

Joint Task Force Alpha will also complement the Justice Department’s efforts to fight corruption.  The Justice Department will increase its focus on investigations, prosecutions, and asset recoveries relating to corruption in Northern Triangle countries through its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement program, counternarcotics prosecutions, and Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. In addition, adopting a Task Force approach, the department’s OPDAT and ICITAP personnel – including new Northern Triangle anti-corruption legal advisors – will work  with Northern Triangle prosecutors and investigators to build corruption cases in those countries themselves, as well as to develop leads that can be pursued by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.