Operation Sentinel: DHS announces plan to fight migrant trafficking

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

I guess someone in the White House is reading the polls. They know we’re about to have another border apprehension announcement from the border patrol and while the numbers might show a slight decline, they’ll probably be the 2nd highest we’ve seen in 20 years. So what do you do to try to convince people you have it all under control? You announce a new plan to fight cross-border trafficking and you give it a snappy name:

DHS said “Operation Sentinel” will be focused not only on cutting off transnational crime organizations funding, but on the actual operations of smuggling.

“We know all too well that these organizations put profit over human life with devastating consequences,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on a conference call. “With the help of our federal and foreign partners, 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. We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network that these organizations use to succeed,” he said. “Operation Sentinel will focus on disrupting the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle migrants into the United States.”

Honestly, I think the main reason this is happening now is because of this video showing two toddlers being dropped over the border wall to fend for themselves. Yes, I know you’ve probably seen this but that’s the point. This brief clip really shocked a lot of people and made the case that the situation at the border is out of control better than any think piece.

Those kids, aged 3 and 5, survived fortunately and are now with their parents who paid to have them brought here. But their story is far from unique:

Troy Miller, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said his agency has rescued 4,766 migrants along the southwest border since October who were abandoned by smugglers.

“Transnational criminal organizations routinely attempt to smuggle people in groups but often end up abandoning women and children when they can’t keep up,” Miller said.

As the weather gets warmer and the number of migrants being smuggled this way increases we can expect this to get worse. And even for those who make it across the border, the cartels that control this trafficking are still going to extract every penny out of these people. Often that looks a lot like imprisonment and forced labor:

Just a few weeks ago, 180 miles from the border, in the quiet San Antonio suburban town of Boerne, Texas, a vehicle carrying nine people — two stuffed in the trunk — was stopped for a traffic violation. All of the occupants told the exact same story — a common reality of cartel-driven smuggling and trafficking. They stated they were stranded on the side of the road and hitchhiking. The driver and his girlfriend were “kind enough” to pick them up. In reality, the driver was ordered to pick them up.

The driver was smuggling these illegal immigrants from Mexico and Honduras after crossing through the Del Rio sector — territory of the Cartel del Noreste, a faction of Los Zetas. Among the passengers was a young teenage boy who had paid $4,000 to be transported to California to pick grapes for $13 an hour. However, the cartel had different plans. The boy learned they were actually headed to a stash house in Houston — where those who did not pay the full amount would have been held until the balance was paid, or they would be sold into trafficking.

These smuggling stash houses are pretty common. Just last weekend the border patrol busted two such houses near McAllen, Texas. In the two houses they found a total of 43 migrants and one child. There are pictures of the busts here.

So getting back to Operation Sentinel, there’s certainly a need to combat these traffickers but if the Biden administration imagines it’s going to stop this in a matter of weeks or months it’s daydreaming. The cartels that run these operations are making millions of dollars per day right now and have effective control over some areas south of the border. Breaking up their operations is a good long term goal but it isn’t going to do much to stop the crisis we face right now.

Finally, let’s not get distracted from the real source of the current problem which isn’t the traffickers, who have always been around, but the Biden administration’s announcement that the border was open to kids and families seeking asylum. That’s what a recent CBP intelligence alert said was driving this. There is no operation that is going to stop the traffickers from bringing people here as long as migrants know that if they can just get their family or their kids across the border, they are here to stay.