by Caroline May
3 Sep 2015

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is touting the recent multinational human smuggling bust as an example of the efforts the Obama administration is making to stem the flood of illegal immigration from Central America and Mexico.

“The Department of Homeland Security will continue to disrupt these smuggling networks as part of our broader security efforts,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Last week authorities arrested 36 alleged human smugglers in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. The round up, called “Operation Lucero” focused on organized smuggling operations that moved hundreds of illegal immigrants weekly through Central America and Mexico into the U.S.

With an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied children and family units illegally coming to the U.S. from Central America over the past couple years, the Obama administration has, in recent months, pursued a public strategy of asking Central American parents not to send their children illegally north to America. And while the administration argues there are no free passes into the country allowing the illegal immigrants to stay, relatively few to date have actually been deported.

According to Johnson, the recent operation is part of the administration’s attempt to secure the border.

“Operation Lucero marks an important success in our continued effort to dismantle human smuggling networks and further secure our Nation’s border,” he said.

“Last year when we experienced an unprecedented surge in illegal migration from Central America through Mexico and into south Texas, I directed DHS law enforcement components to quickly expand our efforts and refine our focus on targeting the smuggling networks that facilitate this illegal migration,” he added.

Last year more than 68,400 family units and more than 68,541 unaccompanied minors were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. at the southern border. As of July 31, CBP reported apprehending 30,862 unaccompanied minors and 29,407 family units at the southern border.

Last week’s human smuggling bust resulted in in 17 arrests in El Salvador, seven in Guatemala and 12 in Mexico. Additionally officials discovered 39 illegal immigrants, including 10 unaccompanied minors, and seized a slew of property from the criminal organizations.

“As a result of this investigation, 14 separate smuggling routes have been dismantled at their points of origin in Central America and Mexico,” Johnson said.

The DHS secretary noted that since June 2014, when the crisis at the border reached a fever pitch and the Obama administration began to really grapple with matter Homeland Security Investigations “has initiated 594 human smuggling investigations, executed 1,244 criminal arrests, obtained 927 indictments and seized $807,117 in currency.”