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February 12, 2015
11:21 am

By Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske

The clock is ticking, and time is running out. On February 27, the continuing resolution currently funding the Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies – including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – expires.

U.S. Customs and Border officer on patrol

Four things can happen.

Congress can let the continuing resolution expire, and CBP may have to furlough employees, which complicates our mission as the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Or Congress can pass another short-term continuing resolution; this approach simply prolongs the kind of budget uncertainty that makes it difficult for CBP to plan and implement mission-critical border security programs and technologies. Or Congress can pass a full-year continuing resolution, potentially compromising CBP’s ability to make critical investments in aging and obsolete technology and facilities. Or Congress can pass a full-year appropriations bill.

That fourth option is the best way to go. But, the President has been very clear that he will veto any appropriations bill that contains amendments that attempt to defund our executive actions on immigration reform.

CBP has made great strides in making it easier and safer for lawful travelers and cargo to cross our borders. We’ve invested in paperless technologies and partnered with private industry to roll out improvements like automated passport control, and we’ve implemented trusted traveler programs to help ease wait times at our ports of entry. We’ve given our Border Patrol agents and our Air and Marine personnel better equipment and resources to ensure that our borders are secure.

We have committed to do more. But we can’t because of the uncertain budget climate. For example:

  • Improving our increasingly obsolete nonintrusive inspection and detection technology is on hold. This technology detects illegal goods and materials and reduces the time it takes to conduct to these inspections, moving trade and travel faster.  This is vital to the U.S. economy. 
  • Upgrading and replacing remote and mobile video surveillance systems in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is on hold.  These technologies are vital to improving CBP’s situational awareness, officer and agent safety, and detection capabilities.
  • Improving the operational systems and analytic tools that support our National Targeting Center is on hold.  The NTC supports DHS efforts to identify and deter transnational criminal organizations and these operational systems help identify terrorists and criminals attempting to cross our borders. 
  • Enhancing CBP’s ability to analyze geospatial intelligence is on hold.  This capability is essential for identifying traffic patterns along the border as well as for prioritizing Border Patrol and Air and Marine deployments.
  • Beginning the procurement process to fix outdated and inefficient Border Patrol facilities is on hold.  This would allow CBP to address a portion of its deferred maintenance backlog, ensuring the safety and well-being of CBP staff and supporting operations in the field.  

I have 40 years of experience in career law enforcement. A shutdown would be a needless hardship for our nearly 60,000 dedicated and professional CBP employees, their families, and for the nation. Nearly all of them – more than 53,000 – would come to work but would not take home a paycheck. CBP, meanwhile, would have to shut down or scale back many of its most important training functions and processing the paperwork to move trade, a risk to the national economy.

Time is running out. Congress should pass a clean, full-year appropriations bill.

The stakes are simply too high when it comes to ensuring secure and efficient border operations.


February 11, 2015
5:21 pm

By Commissioner KerlikowskeU.S. Customs and Border Agent shows Commissioner Kerlikowske flowers to be inspected.

Yesterday, I traveled to Miami where U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s highly trained agriculture specialists are inspecting millions of roses, daisies, tulips and other flowers.  On any given day, the agriculture specialists process about 16.4 million cut flower stems; but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, our specialists are looking at a massive 378.2 million stems.

It’s critically important not only to consumers, but to the vitality of the U.S. economy that cut flower imports are carefully inspected.  Some of these flowers may carry hitchhiking pests and diseases that could cause millions of dollars in damage to the U.S. flower industry and beyond. 

While the vast majority of flowers entering the country are safe, even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease can cause significant damage to American agriculture. Close collaboration with floral industry stakeholders has resulted in an unwavering commitment to facilitating the importation of these flowers while ensuring the interception of any hitchhiking pests to protect American agriculture.

Valentine’s Day at Miami International Airport is one of the most demanding times of the year for CBP agriculture specialists who ensure that flower bouquets are free from pests.

Visit our website for more information and statistics about CBP’s cut flower inspections.

During the 2014 Valentine’s season:

  • CBP agriculture specialists in Miami processed approximately 87 percent of the total imported cut flowers nationally; Los Angeles ranked second.
  • The top cut flower imports processed in Miami consist of roses, mixed bouquets, and Dianthus.
  • The imported cut flowers inspection process resulted in 2,737 pest interceptions nationally. Miami intercepted 1,422 pests, followed by Los Angeles with 383 pests.

Flower leaf with an insect crawling on it.

  • The most common type of insects intercepted in these cut flower imports are Tetranychus sp. (mites), Aphididae (Aphids), Agromyzidae (Miner Flies) and Noctuidae (moths).
  • Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, followed by Ecuador.
  • CBP processed approximately 801.1 million cut flower stems nationally during the 2014 Valentine’s season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, compared to 867.2 million stems processed during the 2013 season -- a decrease of 7.6 percent.
February 11, 2015
1:47 pm

February is Black History Month – and an excellent opportunity to take a moment and reflect on the rich history each of us brings to our community.

Secretary Johnson greets staff gathered a Black History Month celebration at the U.S. Small Business Administration

Secretary Johnson greets staff gathered a Black History Month celebration at the U.S. Small Business Administration

To know and honor African American history, Irish American history, Italian American history, Jewish history, Hispanic history, or any other heritage, one need look no further than your own family tree.  We are all part of a continuing arc of history that contributes to the rich diversity of this Nation.

Secretary Johnson listens while being introduced to deliver keynote remarks entitled “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Secretary Johnson listens while being introduced to deliver keynote remarks entitled “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

My great grandfather Richard M. Goodwin was from Selma, Alabama.  He was a Pullman car porter for 44 years and a member and officer of A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  In 2006, my wife, kids, parents and I piled into an RV and ventured south to visit Selma to find some trace of my mother’s Goodwin ancestry there.  We looked through cemeteries for headstones marked “Goodwin,” and asked around town.  We found nothing.  Then, we stopped by the historic Brown Chapel in Selma, origination point for the 1965 civil rights march that crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge and on to Montgomery.  My father, an architect, happened to look at the cornerstone of that landmark church structure, built in 1908, and discovered it said “R.M. Goodwin, Secretary.”

Secretary Johnson listens engages with SBA staff following his remarks.

Secretary Johnson engages with SBA staff following his remarks.

I encourage all of you to celebrate Black History month by attending and participating in events in your communities.


February 10, 2015
5:27 pm

NBA See Say

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

The Department of Homeland Security is proud to continue our partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) at the NBA All-Star 2015 in New York City to ensure  the safety and security of fans, players, and employees.

The NBA will display “If You See Something, Say Something™” materials in and around the All-Star venues - the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden - that remind fans “If You See Something, Say Something™.” Materials will also be on display in many hotels across New York City where players and fans will be staying. The message is simple: if you see something that doesn’t look right – an unattended bag or package, a person behaving in a suspicious manner, a vehicle that seems out of place – report it to the authorities.

Recently, Secretary Johnson announced the re-launch of a revamped “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign at Super Bowl XLIX, including new campaign materials with re-designed imagery, a new microsite, and for the first time in-app advertising. The campaign highlights the Department’s message that homeland security begins with hometown security.

"If You See Something, Say Something™" is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement. While the campaign materials are new, our message of public vigilance is not. “If You See Something, Say Something™” is more than just a slogan, and we all play a role in keeping our communities safe. We are proud of the Campaign’s many long-term partners, like the NBA, who are committed to amplifying the message and reminding the American public to report suspicious activity. 

Whether you are attending the NBA All-Star events, or watching from home in Great Plains, the mountain west, or the bustling city, we are counting on you to help protect the community you live in. If you see suspicious activity, contact local law enforcement. 

Learn more about the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign, and see how you can help to protect your everyday.


February 6, 2015
5:39 pm

By Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

There are a lot of opinions floating around Washington these days about what’s at stake in the battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From my perspective as Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I can say with certainty that the current standoff has a real impact on our ability to ensure that a wide range of emergency personnel across the country have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep our communities safer and more secure.

FEMA Efforts

DHS grants help train first responders.  Here, FEMA Federal Urban Search and Rescue teams from Nebraska Task Force 1 continue search operations with local first responders in a ravine. A tornado destroyed many parts of the community on May 20, 2013.
Photo: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

One of my toughest days on the job at FEMA was October 1st, 2013 – the first day of the government shutdown. That day, I stood in FEMA’s lobby shaking the hands of dedicated staff who had been furloughed.

It’s time to get the regular budget process back on track.   When you have a budget, you can really get to work. You know what Congress expects you to accomplish, and you can empower your team to get it done.  At FEMA, one of our critical missions is reviewing applications and awarding grants to communities across the country, which can help firefighters, police officers, hospital workers, and emergency managers get the staff, training and equipment they need to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate a wide array of hazards.

However, our current operating situation is less than ideal.  Today, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another continuing resolution, which only provides short-term, temporary funding to our agency.  This isn’t just a slight technical difference – it has a major impact on our ability to assist state, local, and tribal public safety agencies. Congress has the job of legislating, and they have the job of appropriating. But as the executive branch, it is our job to execute.  And our ability to execute the mission is being compromised as we continue to go through the fiscal year under a continuing resolution and the potential for another shutdown. In the long run, this uncertainty wastes taxpayer dollars.  Making matters worse, the current situation is a showstopper for our grant program. Our application process for grants should have started in October; it is now February and we still haven’t been able to issue new grants.  Moreover, during these ongoing continuing resolutions, local first responders from across the U.S. have made plans to attend training classes at one of our three national training centers, where they will learn valuable skills they can bring back to their communities – only to have a wrench thrown in the works caused by uncertainty in the budget. Our state, local, and tribal partners are facing increasingly urgent choices about how they will make ends meet without matching FEMA grants. As a result these agencies may have to curtail their activities or even employ furloughs of their own as their budgets are stretched even thinner.

I’ve heard some claim that DHS operations wouldn’t suffer too much during a shutdown.  I can tell you this is categorically false.  In October 2013, 86% of our permanent workforce (close to 4,000 people) was furloughed, which brought the funding of ongoing recovery activities and grant-making to a halt. As luck would have it, once our lights were turned off, Tropical Storm Karen formed in the Gulf of Mexico, and we had to recall 240 members of our staff to prepare for lifesaving operations only.  Even then, we couldn’t support them administratively or prepare for any potential recovery efforts – a major detriment to our mission to support survivors.

Lurching along with temporary funding, or no funding, prevents us from doing our part to keep the American people safe. The best way to operate the federal government is through the normal process, in which Congress appropriates the funds, the President signs a bill, and we have a real budget to operate under for the fiscal year.  In so doing, the public is best served, taxpayers get the best value, and those on the front lines have the resources they need to do their jobs. That’s what the American people expect, and that’s what we need now.


February 3, 2015
2:55 pm

By DHS Public Affairs

On Monday, February 2, President Obama visited the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters in Washington, DC, where he spoke about the importance of fully funding the agency for the year ahead.  Without an appropriations bill, the Department would be unable to undertake many activities vital to homeland security and public safety. Read the full transcript.

President Obama delivers remarks on the FY2016 Budget at DHS Headquarters in Washington, DC

President Obama delivers remarks on the FY2016 Budget at DHS Headquarters in Washington, DC

President Obama and Secretary Jeh Johnson look on as Richard Chavez, Director, Operations Coordination and Planning gives a tour of the National Operations Center at DHS Headquarters

President Obama and Secretary Jeh Johnson look on as Richard Chavez, Director, Operations Coordination and Planning gives a tour of the National Operations Center at DHS Headquarters

President Obama greets employees of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center.

President Obama greets employees of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center.

President Obama greets Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, Vice Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard after delivering remarks at DHS Headquarters

President Obama greets Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger, Vice Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard after delivering remarks at DHS Headquarters

President Obama addresses employees from DHS Headquarters

President Obama addresses employees from DHS Headquarters



January 30, 2015
7:58 pm

As Chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign—the unified voice for DHS’ efforts to combat human trafficking— I have seen first-hand the value of working together to fight this heinous form of modern-day slavery, and prevent future victims from falling into harm’s way. DHS components work every day to end human trafficking, but we cannot do this alone. Close collaboration with other federal, state, local, private sector and community partners across the United States are key to our fight against human trafficking as they better widen our network to identify and rescue victims of this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Ahead of Super Bowl XLIX this weekend, the DHS Blue Campaign is partnering with the Arizona Human Trafficking Council of the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families, and the City of Phoenix to provide training and awareness materials throughout the state to raise awareness of human trafficking. In recent years, high-profile special events like the Super Bowl have become a lucrative opportunity for criminals who engage in trafficking.

The DHS Blue Campaign’s public awareness materials help individuals and communities identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking, and provide information on how to report suspected cases of human trafficking.

In addition to our partners in Arizona, the DHS Blue Campaign also works with state and local law enforcement, and the education, transportation, and private sectors, as well as neighborhood and community groups and faith-based organizations from across the country. The DHS Blue Campaign is committing to continuing these efforts to help save more lives, protect more innocent individuals, and eradicate this form of modern-day slavery.

While National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month ends tomorrow, our fight endures. Organizations can help us spread awareness about this terrible crime by becoming a partner.

I also encourage everyone to educate themselves on human trafficking by visiting our website.  You can use our resources, including our public awareness posters, indicator cards, and law enforcement tools. You can also help us spread the word by sharing our public service announcement and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ video message on social media. By identifying victims and reporting tips, you are doing your part to help law enforcement rescue victims, and you might save a life.     

To learn more about the Blue Campaign and our partners, visit or email


January 30, 2015
7:12 pm

by Matt Allen, Federal Coordinator (Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/ Homeland Security Investigations, Phoenix

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proud to support the State of Arizona, the National Football League (NFL), the cities of Glendale and Phoenix, and our federal, state and local partners as they work to keep Super Bowl XLIX fans, players and employees safe before, during and after this weekend’s big game.

Earlier this week, Secretary Johnson visited Phoenix, where he met with state and local law enforcement officials and was briefed on security operations at and around the Stadium, including the assets deployed by DHS to support state and local law enforcement security efforts.

Secretary Johnson visited Phoenix

Secretary Johnson tours the Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) with state and local law enforcement to discuss the security efforts ahead of Super Bowl XLIX

As the Federal Coordinating Officer for this year’s event, I have had the privilege of closely coordinating with our federal, state and local partners over the past year in the planning and preparation for the Super Bowl. Together with U.S. Secret Service Special Agent In Charge Christina Beloud our Deputy Federal Coordinator, we are working to ensure the security of fans, players, and workers so that the game runs smoothly and everyone – including those watching at home – can enjoy.

DHS is providing support in the following ways:

  • DHS is providing security assessments and training to state and local law enforcement, local hotels, and others to help them identify potential risks and take steps needed to address them
  • DHS is continuing our partnership with the NFL with a newly revamped If You See Something, Say Something™ public awareness campaign. Fans and visitors in the area will see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message at hotels, and on buses, billboards and for the first-time ever mobile applications. The message will also appear in the game day program, the official fan guide, and on the video board during the game.
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is sending additional officers and increasing the number of checkpoint lanes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for the influx of fans traveling for the game. TSA will deploy nearly 90 additional Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and supervisors as well as four Passenger Screening Canine teams.
  • TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, comprised of Federal Air Marshals, surface/aviation transportation security inspectors, Behavioral Detection Officers, TSOs, and canine teams are helping secure mass transit locations in and around the Phoenix area.
  • The U.S. Secret Service will support open-source social media monitoring for situational awareness and has been assisting with cyber security vulnerability assessments and mitigation. The Secret Service also conducted magnetometer training for University of Phoenix Stadium security personnel.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will conduct operations specifically targeting counterfeit vendors and local merchants of game-related sportswear. This is part of a crackdown on intellectual property rights (IPR) violations and to ensure fans are getting official Super Bowl related memorabilia.
  • Special Agents from ICE Homeland Security Investigations helped with the arrest of five individuals for the distribution of counterfeit items.  They seized over 4,000 items; counterfeit tickets to events including 34 NFL Super Bowl XLIX Tickets, eight Super Bowl XLIX parking passes, designer clothing, videos, smartphones and even electronic audio products. The estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of the seized items is approximately valued at over $800,000.
  • CBP officers and non-intrusive inspection equipment will scan the cargo entering the stadium for contraband such as narcotics, weapons, and explosives.
  • CBP Office of Air and Marine will provide surveillance and assist the Department of Defense in providing airspace security around the venue.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trained 85 Arizona responders through the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents and the Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass Casualty Incidents courses. All of the responders participated in a hands-on mass casualty exercise, where the trainees responded to a simulated mass casualty event in which “injured” role players were triaged, transported and treated in the midst of a chaotic situation that was still unfolding.
  • FEMA is also providing Mobile Emergency Response Support units to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, state and local security personnel could quickly link and coordinate with federal partners. MERS provides mobile telecommunications, operational support, life support, and power generation assets for the on-site management of a disaster.
  • DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is deploying Mobile Detection Deployment Units (MDDUs), radiological and nuclear detection “surge” assets designed to supplement first responders’ existing radiological and nuclear detection and reporting capabilities.
  • DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) will deploy a network of BioWatch detectors to provide public health officials with a warning in the event of a biological agent release. OHA’s National Biosurveillance Integration Center is providing state and local officials with information on potential health threats and their indicators, increasing situational awareness and decision support for public health partners prior to the event.
  • DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD):
    • Cybersecurity: NPPD’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center’s Training and Exercise Team led a training exercise to enhance the cyber preparedness and resilience of public and private partners and venues involved in Super Bowl XLIX. Since then, DHS cybersecurity experts have been conducting weekly vulnerability scanning on internet accessible devices associated with facilities being used by NFL teams.
    • Bombing Prevention Training: Since 2012, the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) Office for Bombing Prevention has conducted 14 Counter-Improvised Explosive Device and Risk Mitigation Training events for more than 650 public and private sector security partners in Maricopa County.
    • Active Shooter Preparedness: NPPD IP conducted an active shooter preparedness workshop, training 150 participants, including members of the Super Bowl Planning Committee.
    • Securing Federal Facilities: The Federal Protective Service will provide protection to Federal facilities in the Phoenix metropolitan area and ensure the continuance of government business and services to the public.
  • DHS Blue Campaign— the unified voice for efforts to combat human trafficking— partnered with the City of Phoenix and the Arizona Human Trafficking Council of the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families to provide training and awareness materials to help individuals and communities identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking. High-profile special events, such as the Super Bowl, draw large crowds and have become lucrative opportunities for criminals engaged in human trafficking.
See Something Say Something See Something Say Something

Secretary Johnson tours the University of Phoenix Stadium ahead of Super Bowl XLIX

Secretary Johnson

Secretary Johnson announces the re-launch of the “If You See Something, Say Something ™” public awareness campaign and continued partnership with the National Football League (NFL) to help ensure the safety and security of employees, players and fans during Super Bowl XLIX.

To help keep fans safe, DHS is continuing our partnership with the NFL through the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. Earlier this week, Secretary Johnson announced the re-launch of the national campaign with updated graphics and materials, which emphasize the Department’s message that homeland security begins with hometown security – and that everyday citizens are empowered to protect their neighbors and the communities they call home by recognizing and reporting suspicious activity.

I thank the hundreds of DHS employees from across the Department, as well as our state and local partners, for their efforts to make this event a success.  Together, we can keep Super Bowl XLIX safe, secure, and enjoyable for all.


January 28, 2015
10:16 am

Data Privacy Day, recognized each year on January 28, is an international effort focused on protecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust. Since 2008, Data Privacy Day has encouraged everyone to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information, understand what their information can be used for, and take steps to protect themselves and their identities.

Ensuring the privacy of your data can be complicated. Today, you don’t even have to be at a computer to be sharing your personal information online. While convenient, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones provide more opportunity for your personal information to be at risk. Additionally, information sharing is built into many applications and devices. Fitness trackers can broadcast your latest workout (or even your weight!) to all of your Facebook friends; apps can use your smartphone’s GPS feature to tell friends when you are on the road; and photo sharing sites can share your location as well. This type of information sharing can foster communities and connectivity, but can also potentially put your personal data, privacy, and identity at risk.

I encourage everyone to think about the information they share online and to take steps to protect their personal information. Start with these tips from Stop.Think.Connect.™ cybersecurity awareness campaign:

  • Secure your devices. Take advantage of lock screens, passwords, and fingerprint capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Set strong passwords. Make your passwords hard to guess, and change them regularly.
  • Think before you app. Many apps request access to personal information, including your contact lists, phone books, pictures, or friend lists. On some mobile devices, you have the option of denying an app access to that information.
  • Own your digital life. Think carefully about what you post online. Everything you put on the internet – photos, tweets, and blogs – will be out there people to see forever. Take ownership of your digital life by making sure that only what you want to be seen is posted.
  • Customize the settings on your accounts. Many accounts include default settings that promote more information sharing. Check your account settings to ensure only the information you want to share is visible to those people you want to share it with.

Protecting data privacy is not only a personal matter, but a national priority. The safer we are with our own data and our actions online, the safer we are as a nation. President Obama recently announced renewed efforts to protect the privacy and identity of Americans, including new legislation protecting consumers, standardized privacy laws, and safeguards for the identity and personal information of children.

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), we take data privacy very seriously. The Department handles the personal data of millions of Americans. To protect this information, DHS developed privacy policies and procedures based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), a set of eight foundational principles that are derived from the Privacy Act of 1974. Using these principles as the foundation for privacy activity helps DHS programs and technology analyze their use of personal information and ensure information is collected in a transparent and protected way and only collected to support the DHS mission.

For more information on how to stay safe online, visit Stop.Think.Connect. to learn more.


January 26, 2015
3:01 pm

by Sharon Peyus
Unit Chief, Investigative Support Unit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations

A 15 year-old, branded with her pimp’s street name tattooed across her chest, was ordered to engage in sex acts for money with dozens of male clients.  Each day, the teenager and three other adult women had to meet a quota set by their trafficker. The teenager was required to work more than 12 hours a day with only one daily meal, and if she resisted, she was beaten.

Regrettably, this real-life story is not uncommon scenario U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has witnessed.  ICE HSI is a critical investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security that combats criminal organizations and criminal exploitation, including domestic and international cases of human trafficking.

ICE utilizes a victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking, which places equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims, and the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Victims are key to the successful investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Because victims may be fearful of law enforcement or reprisal from their traffickers, it is paramount to ensure that victims feel safe and secure, and are able to access the social services they require for stability, safety, and recovery.

ICE’s Victim Assistance Program is supported by Victim Assistance Specialists across the country who provide victims with a wide range of local resources from early in the investigative stage through prosecution. Working together with hundreds of collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators, the Victim Assistance Program connects victims of human trafficking and other crimes with non-governmental organizations in order to meet the victims’ basic humanitarian needs. Providing a channel for victims to fully disclose their stories in a non-threatening environment is vital to our victim-centered process. 

Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking.  DHS and ICE rely on individuals, families, and communities to learn the indicators of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking once suspected or identified.  Knowing the red flags is a key step in identifying more victims, so they can be rescued and have their traffickers brought to justice.

The ICE HSI Task Force, which includes local law enforcement, identified this teenager as a victim of human trafficking. ICE HSI’s Victim Assistance Specialist then assessed her needs, and the needs of the additional victims who were subsequently identified. Victim assistance efforts were provided throughout the criminal investigation – including referring this teenager to a tattoo artist and arranging an appointment to remove her tattoo.  The teenager was kept apprised of the judicial process, and provided ongoing care and case management without interruption.

Last month, her trafficker was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Upon release, the trafficker is also required to register as a sex offender.  This teenager is now reunited with her family and enrolled in school – offering hope that she will not turn back, but become a survivor instead.

If you suspect something, do not at any time attempt to confront a trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Instead, contact local law enforcement directly or call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) to report suspicious criminal activity.  This Tip Line is also accessible outside of the United States by calling 802-872-6199.  To get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).



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