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October 26, 2022Washington, DC, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Central, South America efforts take down human smugglers in Guatemala

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the criminal investigative agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducted a large-scale enforcement action in Guatemala that led to the execution of 20 arrest warrants and 54 search warrants in Guatemala City, Huehuetenango, and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Oct. 24-25. HSI Guatemala executed the operation in conjunction with the HSI Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) and Guatemalan authorities.

These enforcement actions resulted in the arrest of 24 Guatemalan nationals for violations of Guatemalan law concerning human smuggling and the seizure of US$156,882 and other contraband, as well as the rescue of 70 undocumented migrants of Ecuadorian, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, and Venezuelan nationality from numerous hotels in Guatemala City.

Of the 24 Guatemalan nationals arrested, seven were Guatemalan police officers who facilitated human smuggling as part of the illegal smuggling network. These officers were arrested by the Guatemalan National Police’s (PNC) Internal Affairs Unit for their complicity in the criminal enterprise under investigation. The arrested officers are not members of the TCIU.

“The enforcement actions we are taking against the vicious smuggling organizations that prey upon vulnerable individuals are unprecedented in their scope and scale,” said Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “This takedown by our Homeland Security Investigations is a powerful example of the thousands of actions we have taken to date. Our efforts are in partnership with other departments in the federal government and, critically, through increased collaboration with our foreign partners as well.”

“Our special agents will continue to be relentless in their pursuit of dismantling transnational criminal organizations seeking to profit from this type of enterprise with zero regard for human life,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Tae D. Johnson. “Human smuggling is an abhorrent crime, and HSI will keep exhausting every resource available to bring perpetrators to justice.”

In May 2021, HSI initiated an investigation with international partners into three Guatemalan human smuggling networks operating across the Guatemalan/Salvadoran border. Continuing to work with the TCIU and Guatemalan authorities to disrupt and dismantle regional human smuggling networks, HSI Guatemala’s investigation led to the identification of an additional two human smuggling networks using six hotels in Guatemala City for similar smuggling operations.

In April 2022, DHS launched a first-of-its-kind effort, unprecedented in scale, to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks. This $60 million campaign has resulted in the arrest of over 5,000 smugglers and disruption of more than 5,500 smuggling operations over the past six months. This work includes raiding stash houses, impounding tractor trailers used to smuggle migrants, and confiscating smugglers’ technology.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.