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U.S. announces arrests in border crackdown on human smuggling

The US-Mexico boarder
The US-Mexico boarder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials have made almost 200 arrests and seized more than $625,000 in illicit profits in a month-long crackdown on human smuggling in response to an influx of illegal immigration into Texas, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the campaign underscored the government's pledge that U.S. borders were not open to illegal immigration "and that if you enter the United States illegally, we will send you back".

"Equally important, those who prey upon migrants for financial gain will be targeted, arrested, and prosecuted," he added in a statement.

"We are focusing on the pocketbooks of these human smugglers, including their money laundering activities in the United States – working with our Mexican and Central American partners to track, interdict, and seize the money flowing through Mexico and Central America."

Johnson said the government sent extra personnel to Texas' Rio Grande Valley in late June to combat human smuggling operations on the southwest U.S. border.

"Less than a month into this operation, 192 smugglers and their associates have already been arrested on criminal charges, more than 501 undocumented immigrants have been taken into custody and more than $625,000 in illicit profits have been seized from 288 bank accounts held by human smuggling and drug trafficking organizations," the secretary said.

Immigration enforcement authorities, it said, "will continue to prioritize cases involving smuggling or transporting of undocumented individuals, including minors, into the United States."

The Obama administration has been seeking to deal with a surge of undocumented children across the southern border.

During the nine months ending June 30, more than 57,000 children were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, most from Central America, and double last year's count, according to U.S. government data.

President Barack Obama meets the leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on Friday to discuss cooperation in dealing with the flow of child migrants.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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