Biden Announces 'Unprecedented' Federal Deployments to Crack Down on Human Smuggling
The president also vows to dramatically increase refugee resettlements from the Americas despite his administration's failures to date.
The Biden administration has deployed 1,300 federal personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to help quell human smuggling operations, which it said has led to thousands of arrests.
President Biden announced the initiative as part of an international agreement unveiled last week to provide more support to migrants while boosting efforts to curb and process large swings in migratory patterns. Twenty nations in the Americas signed onto the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, which will boost assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, increase pathways for legal immigration, better coordinate border management systems and improve emergency response. Biden announced the agreement on Friday at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations has sent 700 officers to the border to support the crackdown on human smuggling as part of what the administration is calling Operation Expanded Impact. Other task forces and operations housed within the departments of Homeland Security and Justice are identifying suspicious activities and leading investigations.
A senior administration official describing the elements of the Los Angeles declaration described the initiative as “a first-of-its-kind and unprecedented-in-scale campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks across Latin America.”
Biden on Friday said the campaign has led to 1,800 arrests in its first two months and DHS added it has executed nearly 30,000 law enforcement actions, marking a 600% increase compared to prior years.
“If you prey on desperate and vulnerable migrants for profit, we are coming for you,” the president said. “We are coming after you.”
DHS estimated it has reversed the flow of migrants by 900 individuals per day. Under the new agreement, nations in the region agreed to boost information sharing and law enforcement cooperation to improve border management. After a court order, the Biden administration is still enforcing a pandemic policy first instituted by the Trump administration to turn away virtually all migrants showing up at the border and seeking asylum.
The White House stressed its goals would only be realized with buy-in from key regional partners and countries like Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador all signed onto the declaration. Biden pledged to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas over the next two years. The president previously promised to welcome 125,000 refugees into the country in fiscal 2022, but the administration is lagging well behind that goal. The U.S. admitted just 5,300 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean region from October 2017 through June 2022 and expects to bring in 1,800 more by the end of September, the State Department said. The new target would mark a threefold increase over the current rate of admissions.
Brian McKeon, State's deputy secretary for management and resources, recently told Congress the department is in the midst of backfilling vacancies that sat empty during the Trump administration to boost its capacity. State said it has increased its caseworker staffing focused on Latin America by 300% in the last year and is prioritizing cases in the region.
“We have a lot of rebuilding to do because the program was decimated by the previous administration,” McKeon said last month. “The president has given us an ambitious target. We’re not going to hit it this year but we’ve got to make progress so we can hit it in the next couple years.”