The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday gave permission to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to order a statewide probe into alleged human trafficking activities aided by transnational crime organizations (TCOs).
The court approved DeSantis’s request to impanel a statewide grand jury for an initial duration of 12 calendar months to investigate TCOs and their affiliates who allegedly smuggle people—especially children—across the southern border, according to court records reviewed by The Epoch Times.
The statewide grand jury would independently investigate the criminal activities alleged in the petition, including human smuggling, kidnapping, and laundering of illegal substances, and make recommendations on current laws and law enforcement methods if deemed necessary, according to the petition.
Judge Ellen S. Masters, Chief Judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit, will preside over the grand jury.
“The purpose of the grand jury will be to investigate individuals and organizations that are actively working with foreign nationals, drug cartels, coyotes, to illegally smuggle minors—some as young as 2 years old—across the border and into Florida,” DeSantis said during a press briefing on June 17.
“Many children who are smuggled are ‘assaulted, raped, kidnaped, and/or killed,’” the petition reads. “They are used to traffic drugs and weapons, as well as launder money.”
The petition continued by citing government data that Border Patrol agents have apprehended over 108,000 unaccompanied children who had illegally crossed the border in fiscal year 2021.
Almost all unaccompanied minors are being smuggled up from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, according to Customs and Border Protection data.
Once apprehended, unaccompanied children are processed by Border Patrol and transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), usually within 72 hours. HHS then places the child with a sponsor, who often is a family member of the child, according to the petition.
According to a June 17 press release on the governor’s website, the grand jury would also “investigate local governments that are aiding this smuggling scheme by intentionally violating state law, which requires them to cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters.”
The petition names Miami-Dade County as one of the government bodies under investigation.
“According to reports from federal law enforcement, however, Miami–Dade County is refusing to honor federal requests to take custody of criminal aliens in Miami–Dade’s detention facilities, including aliens arrested for attempted murder, domestic violence by strangulation, assault with a deadly weapon, and lewd and lascivious behavior on a minor,” the petition states.
“Miami-Dade appears to be basing this unlawful conduct on fraudulent use of the victim and witness exception.”
DeSantis’s petition comes as a part of what his office announced as a three-part measure to “protect Floridians from the dangerous impacts of the Biden Border crisis.”
The two other parts include assembling a “strike force of state and local law enforcement” personnel to tackle illegal border activities and signing into law a bill (SB 1808) that will prohibit “government agencies from contracting with any common carrier facilitating the resettlement of illegal aliens into Florida.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.