20 May 2004
Human Smuggling a National Security Risk, U.S. Official Says
Torres says human trafficking "pipeline" could
"Human smuggling and trafficking into the United States constitute
a significant risk to national security and public safety," says
John P. Torres of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
"We know that these smuggling and trafficking pipelines serve
as a conduit for undocumented aliens and criminals seeking entry
into the United States. However, they could just as easily be exploited
by terrorist and extremist organizations seeking to gain entry
into the United States in order to carry out their own destructive
schemes," Torres told members of Congress during a May 18 hearing
on "Alien Smuggling: New Tools and Intelligence Initiatives."
Torres is the deputy assistant director for smuggling and public
safety at DHS's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
He described the scope of the human smuggling problem to the Subcommittee
on Immigration, Border Security and Claims of the House Judiciary
"The United States is a primary target destination for smugglers
and traffickers," Torres said, "which means that literally tens
of thousands of men, women and children are entering this nation
illegally each year -- undocumented, undetected and unprotected."
"This international criminal market is extraordinarily lucrative,
generating an estimated $9.5 billion in profit for criminal organizations
worldwide," he said. "In many cases, these profits fuel additional
criminal enterprises, such as the trafficking of drugs, weapons,
or other contraband, or the funds are laundered and invested in
legitimate business enterprises. These untraced profits feed organized
crime activities, undermining governmental action and the rule
of law, while allowing these criminal networks to grow stronger,
more resilient, and more dangerous."
Torres explained that human smuggling differs from trafficking
only by degree. Smuggling organizations make their profits by illegally
moving humans to countries of their choice. Traffickers, however,
increase their profits by forcing their victims into forced labor
or commercial sexual exploitation arrangements at their destinations.
U.S. concerns about human smuggling and trafficking extend far
beyond matters of security and law enforcement, Torres said. He
said the costs in human suffering and exploitation that often accompanies
smuggling and trafficking pose "a moral challenge here in the United
States and across the globe."
He recounted cases of shootings, beatings, sexual exploitation
and deaths of illegal immigrants at the hands of their smugglers. "Smugglers
and traffickers show a shockingly callous disregard for the lives
in their charge," Torres said. "Smuggling and trafficking all too
often lead the way to cruelty, slavery, and servitude -- assaults
on basic freedoms and human dignity," he said.
ICE, he told congressional members, is working to dismantle the
criminal and terrorist organizations that smuggle or traffic in
people, and to strip away their assets and profit incentive. Because
smuggling and trafficking operate within a complex global environment,
ICE is also strengthening diplomatic initiatives with government
officials and law enforcement agencies around the world to dismantle
Following is the text of Torres' remarks, as prepared for delivery:
John P. Torres
Deputy Assistant Director, Smuggling & Public Safety
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Department of Homeland Security
House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security
Committee on the Judiciary
New Tools and Intelligence Initiatives"
May 18, 2004
Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building
MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE, thank you for the
opportunity to address you about the efforts on the part of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to combat criminal organizations
engaged in human smuggling and trafficking.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS), ICE is responsible for identifying and shutting
down vulnerabilities in the nation's border, economic, transportation,
and infrastructure security. Our agency seeks to prevent terrorist
acts and criminal activity by targeting the people, money, and
materials that support terrorist and criminal organizations.
In that mission, we recognize that human smuggling and trafficking
into the United States constitute a significant risk to national
security and public safety. We know that these smuggling and trafficking
pipelines serve as a conduit for undocumented aliens and criminals
seeking entry to the United States. However, they could just as
easily be exploited by terrorist and extremist organizations seeking
to gain entry into the United States in order to carry out their
own destructive schemes.
I would initially like to provide an important clarification and
necessary distinction between the terms "human smuggling" and "trafficking." Human
smuggling and trafficking, while sharing certain elements and attributes
and in some cases overlapping, are distinctively different offenses.
Both practices encompass the organized and illicit movement of
men, women, or children across or within national borders. In some
respects, human trafficking may be regarded simply as an aggravated
form of human smuggling. Human trafficking, specifically what U.S.
law defines as "severe forms of trafficking in persons," typically
involves force, fraud or coercion, and occurs for the purpose of
forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Smuggling and trafficking
also differ with regard to the time frame of the offense. Human
smuggling organizations typically generate short-term profits based
on smuggled migrants. On the other hand, trafficking organizations
frequently look to generate both short-term and long-term profits
by forcing their victims into forced labor or commercial sexual
The United States is a primary target destination for smugglers
and traffickers, which means that literally tens of thousands of
men, women and children are entering this nation illegally each
year -- undocumented, undetected and unprotected. This international
criminal market is extraordinarily lucrative, generating an estimated
$9.5 billion in profit for criminal organizations worldwide. In
many cases, these profits fuel additional criminal enterprises,
such as the trafficking of drugs, weapons, or other contraband,
or the funds are laundered and invested in legitimate business
enterprises. These untraced profits feed organized crime activities,
undermining governmental action and the rule of law, while allowing
these criminal networks to grow stronger, more resilient, and more
I would like to emphasize that our concern with human smuggling
and trafficking goes far beyond matters of security and law enforcement.
There is another critical dimension to this issue -- the real cost
in human suffering and exploitation that too often accompanies
this criminal practice, posing a moral challenge here in the U.S.
and across the globe.
In May 2003, police discovered dozens of undocumented aliens --
men, women, and children -- locked in a hot, airless tractor-trailer
outside Victoria, Texas. The trailer, originally bound for Houston,
had been unhitched and abandoned 175 miles from the Mexico border
in a botched smuggling job. In the hours that followed, the victims
grew more and more desperate for air -- scraping at the insulation
in the doors and beating their way through the taillights in a
futile effort to escape. Ultimately, 19 people died in that trailer,
including a seven-year-old boy. It was the deadliest case of human
smuggling in the United States in fifteen years.
Or consider the situation that developed in Arizona last year.
The rapid influx of smuggling organizations into Phoenix and the
surrounding area brought indiscriminate kidnapping of groups of
undocumented aliens, along with shootings and highway carjackings
of smuggling loads. These lawless actions represent a new level
of criminal behavior and savage violence. In October 2003, ICE
Agents and Phoenix Police Officers rescued ten undocumented aliens
who had been held hostage by smugglers. The smugglers had raped
three women, and during negotiations with undercover agents, they
threatened to rape a nine-year-old child and sever the hands and
feet of another smuggled alien. Ultimately, five defendants were
arrested and prosecuted for kidnapping and hostage-taking violations.
As these cases illustrate, smugglers and traffickers show a shockingly
callous disregard for the lives in their charge. In too many cases,
the victims flee poverty or abuse, only to be forced to travel
in squalid conditions without adequate food, water, or air. Arriving
at their destinations, they are frequently subject to brutal violence,
forced labor, and sexual exploitation. Smuggling and trafficking
all too often lead the way to cruelty, slavery, and servitude --
assaults on basic freedoms and human dignity.
ICE strategic goals are to dismantle the criminal and terrorist
organizations that smuggle or traffic in people; to strip away
their assets and profit incentive; and to work with our allied
DHS components to attack these organizations from a variety of
angles. One of the agency's most effective weapons is our Office
of Investigations, which applies a vast array of investigative
methodologies in the fight against both criminal and terrorist
organizations as well as the infrastructure that supports their
activities in the United States and around the world.
ICE brings to bear all of our authorities, expertise, and resources
-- including the application of smuggling, trafficking and money
laundering statutes and the identification and seizure of assets
and criminal proceeds -- in the fight against human smuggling and
trafficking. Moreover, as part of ICE's "Cornerstone" economic
security initiative, our financial investigators identify and shut
down the methods that smugglers, traffickers, and other criminal
and terrorist organizations use to exploit financial systems to
earn, move, and store their criminal proceeds.
Our specialized investigative teams are prepared to respond to
critical smuggling incidents as swiftly as possible. Smuggling
and trafficking cases are complex, so our teams of agents have
specialized skills -- investigators, language specialists, financial
investigators, forensic investigators, and others. This helps us
deploy our resources more readily when an incident occurs, whether
it is at the border, at a maritime port, or in the interior.
ICE's strategy, combined authorities, and innovative methodologies
have proven effective. In the Victoria, Texas, case, ICE worked
closely with other DHS components, local law enforcement, and intelligence
and enforcement agencies in Mexico and Guatemala. Our unique combination
of investigative tools allowed us to follow the money, pinpoint
the conspirators, and bring them to justice. In one month's period,
ICE's coordinated approach led to the arrest and prosecution of
14 defendants in the United States and abroad.
This success was the foundation for a new model for fighting smuggling,
which we've now taken to Arizona. ICE assembled a task force known
as "Operation ICE Storm" to combat violent crime in the Phoenix
metropolitan area. We brought our expertise in immigration, customs,
and money laundering investigations into a partnership with other
stakeholders at the Arizona border. Since we launched ICE Storm,
we've prosecuted more than 190 defendants for human smuggling,
kidnapping, money laundering, and weapons and drug violations.
We've seized over 100 weapons and over $5.2 million.
Every time we confiscate an assault weapon or cash from these
criminal organizations, and every time we trace back and shut down
one of their funding streams, we make it harder for these criminal
to conduct business. Furthermore, our efforts are producing additional
positive results. For example, the Phoenix Police Department credits
ICE Storm with a 17 percent decline in homicides and an 82 percent
decline in migrant related kidnappings in the final quarter of
We're building on ICE Storm's success with DHS' Arizona Border
Control initiative, in which the vigorous application of money
laundering and other federal and state statutes is depriving smuggling
organizations of the criminal proceeds, disrupting their operations
and decimating their organizational hierarchies in the United States
ICE is also working to address the exploitative dimension of human
trafficking. A disturbingly large number of trafficking cases center
on women and children forced into prostitution and sexual slavery.
In virtually all of these cases, the victims have been promised
jobs, marriages, or other new opportunities, only to find themselves
trapped in a web of exploitation and abuse.
We've stepped up our investigations of these exploitative practices
and we're getting results. In January, a man in McAllen, Texas,
who headed a sex slavery ring at the border, was sentenced to 23
years in prison. In New Jersey last summer, we uncovered a prostitution
ring that trafficked in Mexican girls, who were lured to the United
States only to be forced into sexual slavery. Two of the ringleaders
were sentenced to 18 years in federal prison. In New York City,
our investigators uncovered a trafficking network that recruited
South Korean women, promising them jobs as hostesses but forcing
them to work as prostitutes. These traffickers, and a great many
others, are off the streets and out of business.
As in smuggling, ICE is employing innovative methodologies to
combat human trafficking. ICE is working closely with the Department
of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and various
Non-Governmental Organizations to assist victims of trafficking.
Our departments recently launched a trafficking initiative in Philadelphia,
Atlanta and Phoenix that employs a task force configuration with
state and local law enforcement agencies attacking on multiple
fronts the criminal organizations and infrastructure that engage
and support these crimes. Furthermore since March of 2002, in close
coordination with our partners at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, ICE has provided 371 victims of trafficking with "T" visas
enabling the victims to remain in the United States, without fear
of removal, to assist law enforcement in dismantling these trafficking
networks. In the last three years, the Department of Homeland Security,
and the former INS, has provided over 70 training sessions with
prosecutors, local law enforcement and victim advocates to educate
them about trafficking issues.
Human smuggling and trafficking take place within a complex global
environment of political and economic relationships between countries
and peoples. ICE's strategy, therefore, emphasizes the crucial
role of liaison, technical assistance, information-sharing and
diplomatic initiatives with government officials and law enforcement
agencies in source and transit countries to dismantle criminal
Within that conceptual framework, the Departments of Homeland
Security, State and Justice, as well as intelligence agencies,
are updating the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center to synthesize
intelligence, law enforcement and other information to bring more
effective international action against human smugglers, traffickers
of persons, and criminals facilitating terrorists' clandestine
ICE, functioning as the lead agency, facilitates the participation
of federal stakeholders and provides a mechanism to foster greater
integration and overall effectiveness to the U.S. Government's
enforcement, intelligence, and diplomatic efforts, and promotes
similar efforts by foreign governments and international organizations.
Smuggling and trafficking are by definition international crimes,
which is why ICE is prepared to take that fight abroad. We've developed
a full spectrum of investigation and enforcement to confront the
problem at every point -- in source and transit countries, on the
seas, at our nation's borders and ports, and in the U.S. interior.
In U.S. embassies throughout the world, we have a network of ICE
attachés, who are working with their counterparts in foreign law
enforcement agencies to better coordinate investigations and communication,
and to follow the money and seize the millions of dollars in profits
flowing from these organizations. We're integrating our government's
intelligence and enforcement efforts, and we're mobilizing other
governments and international organizations, in the fight against
human smuggling and trafficking.
In conclusion, smuggling and trafficking in human beings are not
at all new practices -- they are criminal methods with a long history.
What is new is the sophistication of criminal organizations that
benefit from the speed and efficiency of today's telecommunications,
transportation, and financial networks. What is new is the security
threat we face today, in which terrorists will employ any method
and exploit any vulnerability to strike at our country and people.
What is new is the war we are fighting against these criminals
and terrorists, and the tactics, tools, and strategies we must
bring to bear to defeat them. ICE is dedicated and committed to
this mission. We look forward to working with this Committee in
our efforts to save lives and secure our national interests. I
hope my remarks today have been helpful and informative. I thank
you for inviting me and I will be glad to answer any questions
you may have at this time.