Human Smuggling and Trafficking
HSI prevents the illegal movement of people into the United States through aggressive investigative strategies alongside DHS and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners. Human smuggling is often a gateway crime for additional criminal offenses, including illegal immigration, identity theft, document and benefit fraud, gang activity, financial fraud, terrorism, and other national security threats. Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that operate criminal travel networks provide the means for special interest aliens (SIA), terrorists, and other violators who may seek to harm or exploit the United States to illegally enter the country.
Since its inception, HSI has actively engaged in a comprehensive strategy to combat the smuggling of SIAs into or toward the United States. The inherent dangers associated with human smuggling activity pose a threat to public safety and create grave humanitarian concerns. HSI has encountered smuggled undocumented aliens who have been kidnapped, taken hostage, beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened with murder, or have lost their life as a result of the dangerous conditions created by human smuggling. Additionally, smugglers have been exploiting loopholes in our immigration system by presenting fraudulent documents alleging familial relationships that do not exist.
- HSI arrested 5,750 criminals associated with human smuggling in FY19, a 41 percent increase from FY18..
- This increase is attributed in part to the Southwest border initiative to combat fraudulent families and the use of Rapid DNA testing. HSI has dedicated more than 400 personnel to combating this issue and protecting children from being smuggled. HSI is also focused on identifying and stopping TCOs from generating false documents and supporting child smuggling through the use of fraudulent family units.
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes investigated by HSI. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor, and other forms of servitude to repay debts that are often incurred during their illegal entry into the United States. HSI proactively identifies TCOs involved in human trafficking and prioritizes these investigations according to the national security and public safety risk they present. HSI employs a victim-centered approach to human trafficking investigations where equal value is placed on identifying and stabilizing victims, as is placed on investigating and prosecuting traffickers. In addition, HSI has developed the Strategic Trafficking Outreach Program (S.T.O.P.) to educate industry and raise public awareness in recognizing and reporting trafficking.
- HSI arrested 2,197 criminals associated with human trafficking in FY19, a 38 percent increase from FY18.
- HSI identified and/or assisted 428 victims of human trafficking in FY19, a 39 percent increase from FY18.
Investigating, disrupting and dismantling TCOs that illicitly introduce fentanyl, heroin and other dangerous opioids into the United States is a high priority mission area for the men and women of HSI.
These crimes gravely impact the health of our citizens and the safety of our communities and HSI uses a broad range of tools to attack the opioid scourge across several platforms. With its inherent nexus to the border, HSI’s strategy starts well beyond the United States to prevent dangerous drugs and those engaged in trafficking and distributing contraband from reaching our shores. HSI targets fully the illicit importation and distribution activities connected with opioids and/or opioid precursors, as well as any associated occupational and public safety measures. HSI also deploys cutting edge technology to investigate and enforce its authorities in the cyber realm, where TCOs increasingly operate. HSI leverages relationships with the financial industry to cut TCOs’ access to the regulated financial system and uses innovative techniques to limit their access to the burgeoning virtual currency market. Finally, HSI leverages critical partnerships with state, local and federal partners to maximize its impact on the operation of TCOs within our communities.
BEST has been the primary vehicle used to carry out HSI’s comprehensive, multi-layered strategy to combat TCOs involved in drug smuggling, human smuggling and trafficking, and currency through long-established networks and known smuggling routes. HSI has established BEST units at the Memphis, John F. Kennedy, Northern Kentucky, and Los Angeles International Mail Facilities (IMF) to facilitate immediate investigations on seized parcels, which helps establish the probable cause needed to effect enforcement actions on individuals associated with fentanyl-laden parcels.
Key FY19 Statistics
- Expanded and placed BESTS in new locations (i.e. Kansas City).
- HSI seized a record high 12,466 pounds of opioids, a 2,538 pounds increase from FY18.
- HSI seized a record high 3,688 pounds of fentanyl, a 950 pound increase from FY18.
- HSI made more than 1,900 fentanyl-related arrests, an increase of 175 percent from FY18.
- HSI seized 145,117 pounds of methamphetamine in FY19.
Identity and benefit fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety as terrorists and criminal organizations attempt to exploit existing vulnerabilities. To combat these crimes, HSI leads 36 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBTFs) around the country to target and dismantle the TCOs and individuals who threaten U.S. national security and public safety and to address vulnerabilities that currently exist in the legal immigration system.
Through collaboration and partnership, the DBFTFs maximize resources, eliminate duplication of effort, promote information sharing and produce a strong law enforcement presence. DBFTFs combine a range of law enforcement processes and authorities to achieve focused, high-impact criminal prosecutions, and successfully target assets for forfeiture.
- Expanded to 36 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces in FY19
- HSI made 2,198 criminal arrests this year, an increase of nearly 75 percent from FY18.
HSI is a global leader in investigating and dismantling child exploitation networks and other cyber-enabled criminal activity targeting children. HSI is committed to protecting our most vulnerable population, children, from online predators through the use of cutting-edge technology.
In FY19, HSI arrested 3,957 dangerous child predators and identified and/or rescued 1,069 victims of this heinous crime.
HSI recognizes that transnational criminal street gangs represent a significant threat to public safety in communities throughout the United States. HSI routinely conducts gang investigations side-by-side with federal, state and local law enforcement partners in pursuit of racketeering influenced and corrupt organization (RICO), violent crime in aid of racketeering (VICAR) and Hobbs Act prosecutions to effectively disrupt and dismantle these criminal enterprises and prevent them from preying on our communities and recruiting new members.
In FY19, HSI made 3,886 gang arrests including 337 arrests of MS-13 members.