SAN DIEGO – Special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted a public outreach operation at the San Diego International Airport this week to raise public awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM) and HSI’s commitment in helping the U.S. Government end this practice.
FGM, defined as a harmful practice of cutting female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is a federal crime in the U.S. It is typically performed on girls ages six to 12. Though a cultural practice performed in about 29 countries – predominately in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East – FGM is considered by the U.S. Government to be a severe form of child abuse when performed on female children and human rights abuse when forced upon female adults.
During the four-day outreach operation, a team of specially trained HSI special agents, with assistance from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, reached out to travelers on several daily international flights bound for connecting hubs or destinations with a high rate of FGM. Passengers were provided an informational flyer, available in multiple languages, with information on FGM and how to report suspected abuse related to FGM and other human rights violations to HSI investigators.
The outreach, which is part of Operation Limelight USA, was conducted at the beginning of summer vacation when girls may be sent from the United States to countries where they will undergo an FGM operation, a practice known as “vacation cutting.”
As part of Operation Limelight USA, HSI is conducting similar public outreach at international airports throughout the U.S. The U.S. program was designed by HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, basing it off the United Kingdom’s Operation Limelight which is conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service and Border Authority.
Members of the public who have information about suspected human rights abuses, including FGM, are urged to contact the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous. To learn more about assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE’s confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. You can learn more about ICE’s mission to enforce federal laws governing border control, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety at www.ICE.gov.