September 28, 2023

Citrus Times

When Local News Matters To You

Florida continues to crack down on human trafficking, border-related crime

3 min read

(The Center Square) – Following a major trafficking bust in Polk County where law enforcement officers rescued victims who’d been smuggled through the southern border in Texas and ended up in Florida, farther north in the Panhandle, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office announced the results of another operation targeting exploitation of minors and border-related crime.

The county participated in a national Operation Cross Country investigation involving multiple agencies. They arrested 14 individuals for traveling to engage in sexual activity with minors and five individuals who were in possession of child pornography.;

The sheriff’s office published a list of the 19 individuals who were arrested along with their mug shots and held a news conference last week at which it was revealed that seven of the men who were arrested were in the U.S. illegally. Five had no record of showing lawful entry into the U.S. One was admitted into the U.S. on a B-2 visitor’s visa that expired in 2021. Another was admitted on a J-1 student visa that also expired in 2021.

The news comes as Florida sheriffs have joined a strike force to combat crime stemming from the southern border and as Gov. Ron DeSantis launched a new border security plan in his bid for the presidency.

It also comes as a Florida grand jury is continuing to expose human trafficking of unaccompanied minors from the border, Attorney General Ashley Moody has expanded a multiagency effort to combat human trafficking, and the state legislature passed legislation this year to expand protections for trafficking victims.

At a border event with sheriffs combating cartel crime, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd discussed how they rescued 24 Cuban women in a multi-agency human trafficking operation who’d been smuggled through Central America, Mexico into Texas and Florida.

He cited examples of multi-state and multi-agency busts of cartel schemes operating through federal prisons that his deputies helped shut down last fall. They were also involved in a multi-state bust of a cartel operation that led to the seizure of enough fentanyl in his county to kill 2.7 million people. Florida law enforcement officers in one operation last year seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida.

“And we’re not even on the border,” Judd said. “I can’t imagine what these folks and their colleagues are going through. I can’t imagine what the people who live here are going through because I do know what’s going on through the rest of the country while our president and the administration stands silent and allows the people of this country to be victimized. That is simply unacceptable.”

The Florida legislature passed bills this year signed into law by DeSantis to “fight against Biden’s border crisis.” It includes “increasing penalties for human smuggling, strengthening statutes for the detention of illegal aliens, requiring universal use of E-Verify, enhancing penalties for document falsification, and prohibiting the issuance by local governments of ID cards to people who are not lawfully in the country.”

When announcing Florida’s extensive border security plan earlier this year, DeSantis said the state was “continuing to crack down on the smuggling of illegal aliens, stopping municipalities from issuing ID cards to people here illegally, and ensuring that employers are hiring American citizens or those here legally. Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis. We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies.”

DeSantis’ presidential plan includes declaring “a national emergency on day one,” building the border wall, shutting down illegal entry, and going after Mexican cartels.

At a campaign event on Tuesday, DeSantis said, “I’ll be the first president that’s been willing to lean in against the drug cartels and hold them accountable for the carnage that they’re causing in this country. They are bringing fentanyl. They are bringing poison in. They are killing tens of thousands of Americans by bringing [fentanyl] in. They are sex trafficking. They are human trafficking. They are creating huge, huge carnage in society.

“We’re going to have a very clear policy [with] Border Patrol and the U.S. military. The cartel is breaking into our country and running drugs. That’s going to be the last thing they do because we’re authorizing deadly force and they are going to end up stone cold dead when they try to break into this country.”

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