by Katarina Hall
The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions against a migrant-trafficking gang based in Mexico that has operated since at least 2018.
The Hernandez Salas organization, based in the border city of Mexicali, Mexico, across the border from Calexico, California, has organized travel for countless migrants seeking to cross into the United States, the Treasury Dept. said in a statement.
The transnational criminal organization (TCO) smuggled migrants into the U.S. after charging between $7,000 and $10,000 for package deals to non-citizens that included travel to Mexico, fake documents, and being smuggled into the U.S. They made billions of dollars from the human smuggling operations, according to the agency.
“The practice of human smuggling and the facilitation of fraudulent documentation undermines the U.S. asylum system,” the statement said, “damaging public confidence in the vetting process and jeopardizing access to protection for vulnerable persons fleeing conflict, famine, and persecution.”
According to the department, the criminal organization is run by a woman, Ofelia Hernandez Salas, who has links to the Sinaloa Cartel. Salas is currently under arrest in Mexico and is awaiting extradition to face charges in the U.S.
In addition to Hernandez Salas, the Treasury also sanctioned four of her associates and two hotels that were used to house the undocumented migrants, as well as other entities that supported its operations.
“In close coordination with our law enforcement colleagues and Mexican partners, today’s designation of Ofelia Hernandez Salas and her criminal enterprise aims to disrupt the group’s global operations,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.
“We will continue to aggressively target those who seek to prey on desperate migrants and abuse the U.S. financial system,” he added.
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Katarina Hall is a news reporter at ADN America, with a background as a former Innovation Fellow who conducted research on tech policy, transportation, cities, cryptocurrencies, and immigration.
Photo “U.S. Treasury Department” by Roman Boed. CC BY 2.0.