Historic Guatemalan Extraditions on Human Smuggling 

by Astrid Luna

On March 16th, the Joint Task Force Alpha Summit -JTFA- was held in El Paso, Texas. At the summit, the Department of Justice reported on its achievements in human trafficking.

The Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, preceded the meeting to discuss disrupting and dismantling human smuggling networks operating along the southern border.

Among the accomplishments highlighted at the summit were the first extraditions from Guatemala to the United States on human smuggling charges in nearly five years. The Justice Department referred to the operation as a historic extradition. It demonstrates the interagency work of different U.S. entities in collaboration with the Guatemalan justice sector to dismantle gangs that endanger, mistreat, or exploit immigrants and, as a result, represent national security risks.

The Extraditions 

The extraditions were conducted by the Justice Department’s Joint Task Force Alpha -JTFA-, which was created to investigate and prosecute international human smuggling networks that exploit and victimize migrants. As a result, four Guatemalans, Felipe Diego Alonzo, aka Siete, 39; Nesly Norberto Martinez Gomez, aka Canche, 38; Lopez Mateo, aka Bud Light, 43; and Juan Gutierrez Castro, aka Andres, 46, have been extradited to the United States for their alleged roles in an international human smuggling network and for the death of a young indigenous Guatemalan woman who died in Texas in May 2021. 

The extradition of the four Guatemalans highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding accountable criminal organizations that prey upon vulnerable migrants for profit. Deputy Secretary, John K. Tien of the Department of Homeland Security -DHS- emphasized the importance of maintaining transnational criminal networks accountable for human smuggling and the abuse of migrants.

Guatemala and U.S. Interagency Efforts

The JTFA coordinated  indictments and extraditions for Diego Alonzo Martinez Gomez and Gutierrez Castro, with help from the southwest border U.S. Attorney´s Offices and authorities from the Guatemalan justice sector. 

The Department of Justice thanked Guatemalan law enforcement for the support as an instrument in furthering the investigación with the investigative efforts working with the HSI Guatemala and the HSI Human Smuggling Unit in Washington, D.C. This collaboration helped the investigation and the extradition against the fight against human smuggling. 

The Justice Department -JTFA- and its international partners have succeeded in indicting and arresting the four leaders of the smuggling network and arresting 15 additional targets in Guatemala. In addition, this coordination and cooperation between U.S. and Guatemalan law enforcement authorities led to the extradition of the leaders to the United States to face charges for their alleged roles in the offense.

The efforts for dismantling human smuggling networks send a strong message that the governments of Guatemala and the United States will continue to target illegal operations, using every tool, technique, and resource to ensure justice for victims of human trafficking.

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