Proclaiming that human trafficking is the “modern day manifestation of slavery,” the Homeland Security agency responsible for keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. has embarked on a new mission to rescue illegal immigrants smuggled into the country by traffickers.
As the front line agency guarding the nation’s sea and land entry points, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for intercepting foreign threats—including weapons of mass destruction—while facilitating travel for hundreds of millions of people. About 20,000 agents guard nearly 6,000 miles of border between the U.S., Mexico and Canada as well as 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding Florida and Puerto Rico.
It’s a huge task for the thinly spread law enforcement agency that’s been rocked by a series of corruption scandals in the last few years. Just last month CBP’s commissioner (Alan Bersin) revealed that 127 agents had been arrested or indicted since 2004 for drug smuggling, alien smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy. Most were considered “mission compromising acts of corruption,” according to Bersin’s testimony before a Senate Homeland Security committee.
Considering all this, it may seem odd that the agency would embark on its latest mission to save illegal immigrants who are driven into forced labor by their smugglers, a form of “modern-day slavery.” This week CBP began airing public service announcements in English and Spanish to help migrants avoid becoming victims of human trafficking and to encourage Americans to report any suspicious activity. The new public awareness campaign is called “Don’t Be Fooled” or “No Te Engañes.”
“Death, disappearance and enslavement—these too often are the futures that await illegal immigrants who mortgage their lives to human smugglers,” according to CBP’s deputy commissioner, David Aguilar. The deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Homeland Security agency that removes illegal immigrants from the U.S., says the initiative aims to “reach and rescue the victims who’ve endured much pain and suffering at the hands of callous criminals.”
The smugglers will be criminally charged and subsequently deported, say Homeland Security officials, but the so-called “victims” may very well be allowed to stay in the U.S. In fact, the Obama Administration’s new “three-pronged strategy” (billed as a “first of its-kind-campaign”) includes “prevention, protecting victims and prosecution.”