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  4. Readout of Secretary Mayorkas’s Trip to Arizona and Texas

Readout of Secretary Mayorkas’s Trip to Arizona and Texas

Release Date: March 22, 2023

Photos available here

WASHINGTON – On March 20-23, 2023, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas visited Tucson and Nogales, Arizona and El Paso, Texas to meet with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workforce, discuss ongoing border and enforcement operations, and meet with local officials and nonprofit organizations.

Secretary Mayorkas visited Indian Country to meet with Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., and was joined by Pascua Yaqui Tribe Chairman Peter Yucupicio and other tribal leaders. The meeting took place on the Tohono O’odham Nation. He pledged to continue to work with the tribes, on a nation-to-nation basis, through regular communication and always with deep respect. DHS established the first-ever Tribal Homeland Security Advisory Council and recently finalized the Department-wide DHS Tribal Consultation Policy. Both demonstrate the Department’s deep commitment to including tribal nations in the Department’s decision-making and policy planning processes.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs and Secretary Mayorkas participated in a roundtable discussion with nonprofit organizations based in Tucson, Phoenix, and border communities, as well as representatives of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero’s office, and other city and county officials. The discussion focused on continued collaboration and partnership in providing humanitarian care and reception to migrants. Secretary Mayorkas and Governor Hobbs then traveled to Nogales and visited the Mariposa Port of Entry where they discussed enforcement successes, fentanyl interdiction, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) CBP One app, and Title 42 planning with CBP leadership.

Secretary Mayorkas announced that Operation Blue Lotus —a new coordinated surge operation targeting the smuggling of fentanyl— stopped more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from coming into the United States in its first week. Led by CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and working with federal, state, tribal and local partners, DHS is investing additional personnel, technology, and other resources along the Southwest Border to detect and seize this dangerous drug at and between ports of entry. The operation has led to 18 seizures, 16 federal arrests, and two state arrests so far.

While in Tucson, Secretary Mayorkas met with Mayor Romero to discuss a shared commitment to a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system and how best to support local communities with migrant reception. Later, local DHS teams, including personnel from CBP and ICE HSI, met with the Secretary to discuss cutting-edge law enforcement collaboration between DHS and federal partners to prioritize efforts targeting transnational criminal organizations over those they exploit.

Secretary Mayorkas attended the U.S. Border Patrol’s (USBP) Chiefs Conference, where he thanked USBP leadership for their dedication, innovation, and resilience in the challenging work of securing the border. The Secretary and the chiefs discussed DHS policy, strategy, and operations in a changing environment.

Secretary Mayorkas also traveled to El Paso where he met and thanked USBP Agents and CBP Office of Field Operations Officers for their work and dedication.

In Tucson, the Secretary kicked off the first Secretary’s Awards ceremony and honored the DHS workforce for extraordinary service and leadership to this nation. This was the first of eight regional ceremonies across the country to recognize employees. Thirty employees were presented with awards at this ceremony for excellence and heroic actions, including:

  • Secretary’s Award for Innovation
    • Litigation Modernization Team: This team leveraged subject matter skill sets to achieve efficiencies in handling litigation and information disclosure to save millions of dollars in cost savings and facilitated the use of automation to save people hundreds of hours of manual work.
      • Carollyn Jackson, Diana Mondragon, Joey Lonjers, Kimberly Finley, and Stacey Falkoff
    • Operation Bulwark: In 2020, Operation Bulwark emerged to target transnational threat actors who utilize hacking, malware, unauthorized access, and social engineering techniques to effect computer intrusions or other cybercrime in the open, deep, and dark webs. This team has spawned the creation of multiple spin-off cases focused on threat actors located in Europe, Iran, Russia, Australia, Africa, and Israel.
      • Mark Martinez
    • Tri-Bureau Digital A-File Team: This team successfully coordinated extensive systems integration between CBP, ICE, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to enable the creation of digital A-files at the southwest border. This achievement will transform the manual and resource intensive paper A-file process and result in significant time and resource savings, always important but particularly needed to help manage surges at the border.
      • Bonnie Arellano, Roberto Venegas, Alex Bastidas, and Carrie Davidson
  • Secretary’s Award for Team Excellence
    • Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) State and Local Engagement Team: This team improved CWMD’s engagement with state and local stakeholders through aggressive outreach and education, senior level site visits across the country, constant staff contact on a personal level, and superb delivery of products and services. These efforts have improved state and local agencies’ understanding of CWMD available resources and support and in turn enhanced CWMD’s ability to fulfill its mission.
      • Matt Ziemba
    • ICE Air Operations T-8 Air Charter Application Team: In Fiscal Year 2022, this team was instrumental in implementing the T-8 Air Charter Application Tool. The T-8 Application has modernized the air charter flight reservation process, which has resulted in significant operational improvements to DHS components using the ICE Air Operations Air Charter contract.
      • Jose Flores, Steven Sanchez, Alejandro Cruz, Michelle Linares, Coby Rivera, and Shane Kitchen
    • Immigrant Military Members and Veterans Initiative (IMMVI): On July 2, 2021, Secretary Mayorkas and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough jointly announced the IMMVI. This initiative was established to demonstrate our support of our country’s service members, veterans, and their families. Each member of the IMMVI demonstrated empathy and kindness to veterans, who, in many cases, felt a sense of hopelessness and despair. As a result of the team’s work, 67 veterans have been repatriated and seventeen have become U.S. citizens.
      • Evangelina Ochoa, Emily Grimone
  • Secretary’s Champion of Equity Award
    • Shadow Wolves Enhancement Act: Surmounting administrative and budgetary hurdles, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Scott Brown led a multi-year effort to create the Shadow Wolves Enhancement Act and provided technical assistance to ranking members of the House Committee on Homeland Security. The Shadow Wolves Act allows for shadow wolves to be reclassified as Special Agents with the authority to patrol, investigate, and interdict illicit activities along the southwest border. SAC Brown’s efforts have secured the future of the current shadow wolves and ensured their legacy will continue.
      • Scott Brown
  • Secretary’s Meritorious Service Silver Medal Award
    • Mr. Scott Allen Quick’s efforts in the telematics arena resulted in annual savings of over $2 million dollars and 53 thousand labor hours. Mr. Allen’s outstanding work improved mission readiness while also creating cost efficiencies.
      • Scott Allen Quick
    • Beginning in 2017, HSI Philadelphia initiated the 50 Lashes Investigation, targeting internet relay chats utilized to advertise and distribute child sexual abuse material. A total of 17 domestic and foreign administrators were arrested and indicted by the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in the Southern District of Texas. In addition, three private internet relay networks –networks created and maintained solely for the purpose of sharing child sexual abuse material– have been shut down.
      • Mark Martinez
    • The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor’s (OPLA) Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) National Security Litigation Team provided legal support for the monumental humanitarian undertaking of evacuating and resettling of thousands of Afghan nationals in the United States. OPLA, with support from interagency partners, litigated cases involving Afghans who potentially posed a threat to national security.
      • Robert Davis
    • Known as Operation Zeno, HSI Miami led a high-profile extraterritorial criminal travel strike force investigation involving a prolific, special interest undocumented individual human smuggling network. Based in Pakistan, the network was deemed a national security threat. As a direct result of investigative team’s tireless efforts, groundbreaking collaboration, and innovative investigative skills, the disruption and dismantling of this transnational criminal organization will directly and positively impact the national security of the United States.
      • Adriana Rosas-Carranza
  • Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal Award
    • OAW Safe Haven and Point-of-Entry Leadership Team:  This team managed extraordinary on-the-ground efforts to welcome and resettle Afghan nationals following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The teams at the safe havens and points-of-entry helped to coordinate the implementation of OAW and worked outside their day-to-day responsibilities to integrate other key federal departments and agencies. As part of an operation that frequently went beyond the normal mission of the agency, they went above and beyond to serve and support those who stood alongside the United States.
      • Jeffery Mayfield, Clayton Thomas, Terry Todd
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Traumatic Incidents and Events Response (TIER) Team: As a result of the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, TIER Team deployed to the Uvalde Border Patrol Station to provide crisis management support in Uvalde. They also provided support to the local community members of Uvalde.
      • Samuel Martinez, Don Terrazas, Monica Williams


Last Updated: 05/12/2023
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