The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions against a Mexico-based migrant-trafficking ring that provided false documents to asylum seekers to game the process.
The gang, known as the Hernandez Salas Organization, is based in the border city of Mexicali, which borders Calexico, California.
Since at least 2018, the gang has organized migrant travel from “countries that constitute a national security concern,” the Treasury statement said, without specifying which countries.
However, the department did say the gang smuggled migrants into the U.S. from countries including Russia, Eritrea, Yemen and Iran.
In a statement, the Treasury said criminal schemes harmed those who genuinely needed the protection of asylum.
“The practice of people smuggling and the facilitation of falsified documents undermines the U.S. asylum system,” the statement said, “damaging public confidence in the vetting process and jeopardizing the protection of vulnerable populations fleeing conflict, famine, and persecution.”
The ring is allegedly run by a woman named Ofelia Hernández Salas, who has ties to the Sinaloa cartel. Sanctions also apply to four employees and two hotels used to house migrants. Hernández Salas was arrested in Mexico and is awaiting extradition to face U.S. charges.
The department said the gang charged immigrants between $10,000 and $70,000 for travel packages to Mexico, forged documents and smuggling fees into the United States.
Sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) freeze the assets of U.S. companies and individuals. They also prohibit U.S. citizens and businesses from conducting any transactions with the targeted entities.