Globally, alien smuggling generates billions of dollars in illicit revenues annually and poses a threat to the nation's security. Creation of the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003 has provided an opportunity to use financial investigative techniques to combat alien smugglers by targeting and seizing their monetary assets.
For instance, the composition of DHS's largest investigative component -- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- includes the legacy Customs Service, which has extensive experience with money laundering and other financial crimes. Another DHS component, US Customs and Border Protection has primary responsibility for interdictions between ports of entry. In summer 2003, ICE announced that it was developing a national strategy for combating alien smuggling. Among other objectives, the General Accountability Office determined the implementation status of the strategy and investigative results in terms of convictions and seized assets.
As of April 2005, ICE had not finalized its strategy for combating alien smuggling. ICE was adjusting the draft strategy to focus on the southwest border and encompass all aspects of smuggling, aliens as well as drugs and other contraband. In adjusting the strategy, ICE officials stressed the importance of incorporating lessons learned from ongoing follow-the-money approaches such as Operation ICE Storm, a multi-agency task force launched in October 2003 to crack down on migrant smuggling and related violence in Arizona. Also, the strategy's effectiveness depends partly on having clearly defined roles and responsibilities for ICE and CBP, two DHS components that have complementary anti-smuggling missions.
In this regard, ICE and CBP signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2004 to address their respective roles and responsibilities, including provisions for sharing information and intelligence.
Currently, however, there is no mechanism in place for tracking the number and the results of referrals made by CBP to ICE for investigation. CBP and ICE officials acknowledged that establishing a tracking mechanism could have benefits for both DHS components. Such a mechanism would help ICE ensure that appropriate action is taken on the referrals. Also, CBP could continue to pursue certain leads if ICE--for lack of available resources or other reasons--cannot take action on the referrals.
In fiscal year 2004, about 2,400 criminal defendants were convicted in federal district courts under the primary alien-smuggling statute, and ICE reported seizures totaling $7.3 million from its alien-smuggling investigations. For the first 6 months of fiscal year 2005, ICE reported $7.8 million in seizures from alien-smuggling investigations. A concern raised by ICE and the Department of Justice is the lack of adequate statutory civil forfeiture authority for seizing real property, such as "stash" houses where smugglers hide aliens while awaiting payment and travel arrangements to final destinations throughout the nation.
However, the Justice Department does not have a legislative proposal on this subject pending before Congress because the department's legislative policy resources have been focused on other priorities.
Sources: General Accountability Office, Department of Homeland Security, National Association of Chiefs of Police
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.