Buttigieg and Mayorkas called on by Gallego to ‘shut down’ agencies sending migrants to border

Story by Anna Giaritelli 

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) has called upon top members of the Biden administration to take immediate action against foreign travel agencies that have facilitated migrant travel from around the world to the U.S. southern border.

The 2024 Senate candidate sent letters to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Thursday afternoon that called for the federal government to “take steps to uncover” and “wherever possible, shut down illegitimate travel agencies” that advertise transportation to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gallego called the travel agencies “de-facto fronts for organized smuggling operations to the border” in his letter sent to the Biden Cabinet members on Thursday.

“Last year saw a significant increase in individuals whose countries of origin are outside of the Western Hemisphere, also known as ‘extracontinentals,'” Gallego wrote in the letter. “According to recent reports, travel agencies in some of these countries of origin are advertising travel packages that include flights, connections to smuggling organizations, and transportation from cities in Mexico to the border.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that inspects people, goods, and vehicles seeking to enter the country, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that “pseudo legitimate travel agencies” had emerged in cities such as Dakar advertising travel to the U.S.

These travel agencies push travelers to purchase arrangements that lead them through Europe to Senegal in Africa, where they can get a visa that will allow them to travel to the Western Hemisphere.

“They sell complete packages to connect them to a smuggling organization that will then facilitate their movement up to the border,” CBP said in a statement.

CBP senior official performing the duties of the commissioner, Troy Miller, said smuggling organizations were “recklessly putting migrants in harm’s way, in remote locations across the border, onto the tops of trains, or into the water of the Rio Grande River.”

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Gallego called on the Biden administration to bolster its research into how immigrants from other continents are traveling to the U.S., naming the fake travel agencies, and investigating those agencies’ financial transactions.

More than 12,000 immigrants were encountered attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico on Wednesday, primarily through Arizona, Texas, and California.

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