At the height of the rush of Central American unaccompanied minors into Texas in June, the U.S. Department of Justice announced 'Operation Coyote,' an effort by the Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on the immigrant smugglers who take large sums of cash to traffic children through Mexico and into Texas.
Newsradio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports two months in, the operation is working.
"Just since Coyote started in June, we have had well over 300 arrests of human smugglers," Special Agent Janice Ayala of Homeland Security Investigations tells Newsradio 1200 WOAI.
Ayala says the smugglers are essentially terrorists, preying on desperate people who want to get themselves or their children away from violent crime, gang warfare, and grinding poverty, which are all due to the corrupt and incompetent governments these same people elected, in countries like Honduras and El Salvador.
The smugglers frequently extort families back home for more money, place the people they are smuggling in danger, rape females and even murder individuals after they have received money from their families.
"We seize bank accounts associated with these human smuggling operations," Ayala said. "We have rescued individuals from these situations where they were being abused and extorted."
She says the goal of Operation Coyote is show the smugglers that extorting cash from desperate people in Latin America to smuggle them into the U.S. is a losing proposition.
"They are threatening them, they are extorting their families, people have been sexually assaulted, they have been physically assaulted," she said.
She says Operation Coyote is directly responsible for the continuing drop in the number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. illegally from Central America, and she says the operation will continue, to make sure smuggling gangs, which are frequently offshoots of Mexican drug cartels like the Zetas and the Sinaloa, know they will be held accountable.'