On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officially opened a permanent HSI office at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, expanding HSI’s international presence around the world.
The permanent positions in Haiti are intended to further strengthen country relations to combat gang related crimes, bring criminals to justice, and protect public safety.
HSI Executive Associate Director (EAD) Steve Francis joined Charge d’Affairs Kenneth Merten and Deputy Chief of Mission Nicole Theriot for a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new office.
HSI Port-au-Prince will develop and foster relationships with host government law enforcement partners to exchange information, coordinate, and support investigations, and facilitate enforcement actions and prosecutions to deter the ability of transnational criminal organizations and gangs to smuggle contraband with a nexus to Haiti and the United States. HSI Port-au-Prince will work with its counterparts in Haiti to identify and target sources of supply and illuminate and disrupt transportation and smuggling routes.
HSI Port-au-Prince has begun working towards the establishment of a Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit in Haiti by building relationships with the host country law enforcement and customs organizations. HSI’s TCIUs comprise trained and vetted foreign law enforcement officials who work closely alongside HSI to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in transnational criminal activity. These units facilitate information exchange and rapid bilateral investigation of many of the violations of law within HSI’s investigative purview.
“For more than 15 years, HSI has worked alongside international law enforcement agencies around the world, to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in transnational criminal activity,” said Francis. “As partners, and most importantly allies, we are united in our resolve to support Haiti as they seek ways to prevent further gang violence and restore safety for Haitian citizens.”
In the last year, HSI has deployed multiple special agents to Haiti in support of Operation CITADEL. Operation CITADEL acts as a force multiplier and is designed to strengthen law enforcement, customs, and immigration enforcement capabilities of host nations, while supporting HSI investigations. Operation CITADEL focuses on identifying and disrupting transnational criminal organizations by targeting the mechanisms used to move migrants, illicit funds, and contraband throughout the Caribbean and South and Central America.
In 2019, HSI established the Caribbean Firearms Initiative (CFI) to counter firearms trafficking in the region. Through CFI, HSI works with host nation partners to identify unknown networks and facilitators involved in U.S.-origin firearms smuggling and its associated violence. The CFI has and will continue to facilitate operational support to HSI domestic offices and actively seek opportunities for international cooperation when firearms are identified and seized in route to the Caribbean.
HSI’s International Operations Division develops and supports investigations, initiatives, and operations conducted or supported by HSI attaché offices and builds relationships with foreign law enforcement partners to support domestic cases, combat transnational criminal organizations, and prevent terrorist activities. While doing this, International Operations protects the nation’s borders by conducting international law enforcement operations and partnering with foreign and domestic counterparts to detect, deter, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that threaten the U.S. and host nation’s national security.
In FY21, HSI arrested 34,974 criminals and seized more than $973 million in criminally derived currency, dealing a significant blow to the bad actors seeking to profit from their crimes.
“HSI’s investigative breadth, deep technical experience, and operational agility enables us to be a helpful and supportive partner in preventing gang related crime and weapons smuggling within the Caribbean region,” said Francis.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move.
HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.