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

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

Attorney General Garland announced the establishment of Joint Task Force Alpha, a law enforcement task force that, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will mobilize the Department of Justice’s investigative and law enforcement resources to support U.S. enforcement efforts against the most prolific and most dangerous people smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico and the northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

“Transnational people smuggling and trafficking networks pose a serious criminal threat,” said Attorney General Garland. “These networks benefit from the exploitation of migrants and routinely expose them to violence, injury and death. The joint effort we are announcing today will combine investigative, prosecution and capacity building efforts from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Our focus will continue to be on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and human trafficking networks that abuse, exploit or endanger migrants, pose a threat to national security and are involved in organized crime. Together we will fight these threats where they arise and where they work. “

In addition to the work of the Joint Task Force, Attorney General Garland led 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 provide assistance to counterparts in the Northern countries Triangle and in Mexico to support their efforts to prosecute smuggling and human trafficking networks in their own courts.

The Joint Task Force will consist of federal attorneys from the U.S. attorneys along the southwestern border (Arizona District, Southern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Texas), the Criminal Division, and the Civil Rights Division, with law enforcement officers 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 that focuses on combating transnational criminal organizations associated with migrant smuggling.

“In our ongoing efforts to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and smuggling and human trafficking companies, the Department of Homeland Security will work with the Department of Justice to launch joint Task Force Alpha,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “We will take steps to identify smugglers and their employees to ensure we improve the security of the US border and save the lives of the vulnerable to whom these organizations are routinely exposed.”

The Joint Task Force Alpha will also complement the Justice Department’s anti-corruption efforts. The Department of Justice will increase its focus on investigations, prosecutions and asset recovery related to corruption in the Northern Triangle countries through its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Enforcement Program, Drug Defense Law Enforcement, and the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. In addition, the department’s OPDAT and ICITAP staff – including the new anti-corruption legal advisors in the Northern Triangle – will work on a task force approach with prosecutors and investigators from the Northern Triangle to develop and point out corruption cases in these countries themselves develop that can be followed up by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

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