As migrants continue to surge toward the U.S. border with Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it is upping efforts to stop organizations involved in smuggling people into the country.
"Transnational criminal organizations put profit over human life, with devastating consequences," said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement on Tuesday. "With the help of our federal and foreign partners, we aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminals the ability to engage in travel, trade, and finance in the United States."
The new effort will be called Operation Sentinel and will be a joint effort among U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of State, and the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Smuggling operations continue to lie and exploit vulnerable populations to promote their criminal enterprise — the health and safety of migrants does not influence their lucrative ambition," said Troy Miller, the acting CBP commissioner.
He added that the new operation aims to "disrupt every facet of the logistical network of these criminal organizations."
According to a news release from Homeland Security, "transnational criminal organizations pose significant dangers to migrants."
"These organizations are complicit in sexual assaults, human trafficking, and abandonment of vulnerable migrants — including tender-aged children," the release said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. government said it had picked up nearly 19,000 children who had traveled along across the U.S.-Mexico border in March. It was the largest number ever recorded.
More than 172,000 migrants were caught at the border in March, the highest number since March of 2001.
Some Republican lawmakers have been critical of President Joe Biden's border policies, which represent reversals from his predecessor's tough border controls.
In March, Republican Congressman Troy Nehls, of Texas, said the Biden administration is "aiding and abetting human trafficking."
"This is inhumane is what's happening here," the former Fort Bend County Texas sheriff told Fox News.
Earlier this month, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox that the situation at the border was "not a crisis, it is chaos."