Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a record-breaking year in criminal arrests, highlighting the agency’s work to dismantle immigration-related crime, the drug trade, and other transnational criminal activity.
Homeland Security Investigations — ICE’s investigative arm — netted a record-high of 37,547 criminal arrests during the 2019 fiscal year, according to a Friday press release by the agency. The figure, which marked a nearly 10% increase from the previous fiscal year, reflected HSI’s increased effort to fight crime that extends well beyond the country’s borders. These arrests also resulted in the seizure of over $775 million in currency and assets.
“HSI uses aggressive investigative strategies to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that engage in cross-border crime,” acting HSI executive associate director Alysa Erichs said in a statement released Friday. “HSI special agents worked tirelessly to address threats posed by criminal networks to protect national security and public safety in the United States and around the globe.”
The breakdown of arrests emphasizes the broad range of criminal activity ICE investigative agents cover.
HSI agents arrested 5,750 individuals tied to human smuggling investigations in fiscal year 2019, which ended Sept. 30. ICE attributed that figure, a 41% increase from the previous fiscal year, to implementation of the agency’s Rapid DNA testing technology, which is designed to detect migrant family fraud at the U.S.-Mexico border. Smugglers have been caught selling and rentingchildren in attempts to skirt U.S. immigration laws, and DNA testing programs help rescue minors caught in the human-smuggling industry.
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Additionally, HSI apprehended 2,197 individuals tried to human trafficking, marking a 38% increase from the previous year. The arrests led to the identification or assistance of 428 victims of human trafficking. To be clear, human trafficking involves the exploitation of individuals, often for labor or sexual purposes. Human smuggling, on the other hand, typically involves the illegal transportation of people.
The agency also oversaw a record-breaking year in narcotics enforcement, with HSI agents seizing more than 12,450 lbs of opioids, surpassing 2018’s haul by nearly fivefold. HSI also seized more than 3,600 lbs of fentanyl, and over 145,000 lbs of methamphetamine.
ICE also cracked down on child sexual exploitation in fiscal year 2019, with agents arresting 3,957 child predators and rescued or identified a total of 1,069 victims, according to the agency. ICE recently opened up the Angel Watch Center in Fairfax, Virginia, a facility dedicated to the prevention of child sex tourism.
A total of 3,886 criminal gang arrests were made in fiscal year 2019. These arrests included apprehensions of 337 MS-13 gang members.
“Great work by [ICE’s] Homeland Security Investigations team. They lead US efforts to protect children from online predators,” Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said about the agency’s recent achievements. “Every day heroes protecting our most vulnerable.”
The massive enforcement effort reflects the U.S. government’s deep investment in the Homeland Security Investigations, which boasts 9,800 employees spread across 210 U.S. cities and 52 different countries.