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Multiagency Enforcement Effort Compels Arrest of Wanted Smuggler

Release Date: 
March 11, 2016

SAN DIEGO— The manhunt for a dangerous human smuggler ended last night as Martel Valencia-Cortez, one of the most-wanted targets for multiple DHS agencies, was arrested last night in San Ysidro.

The arrest took place at about 9:30 p.m., as Valencia-Cortez turned himself in to officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.  Valencia-Cortez will remain in federal custody due to an active federal arrest warrant for human smuggling.

Wanted human smuggler Martel Valencia-Cortez was arrested at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Wanted human smuggler Martel Valencia-Cortez was arrested at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

On November 15, 2015, Valencia-Cortez allegedly assaulted a Border Patrol Agent by hurling a softball-sized rock, striking a Border Patrol agent during a human smuggling attempt near Jacumba.

In response to the assault, the U.S. Border Patrol, San Diego Sector launched a binational media and public outreach campaign to expose Valencia-Cortez.  Additionally, an intensive, multiagency targeted enforcement operation took place along the border and ports of entry in California.  This collaborative effort was initiated within Joint Task Force-West (JTF-W), California Corridor.  The responsibility of JTF-W, California Corridor, is to integrate and prioritize DHS operations to secure the joint operating area. 

Richard A. Barlow, Chief Patrol Agent of the San Diego Sector, said, “It is clear that the relentless effort by Joint Task Force-West partners pressured Martel Valencia-Cortez into a corner, forcing him to surrender to his arrest.  This effort should send a clear message to anyone who would carry out the deplorable act of assaulting a federal agent.  I applaud the collective fortitude displayed by all involved Joint Task Force-West components and the government of Mexico for the arrest of this individual.”

Valencia-Cortez, 39, has been involved in numerous human smuggling incidents dating back to 1999.  He has been known to carry a firearm during smuggling attempts and has resorted to violent and dangerous means to conduct illicit smuggling activity and elude arrest, such as reckless, wrong-way driving along local freeways into oncoming traffic, threatening and brandishing weapons to intimidate smuggled aliens, assaulting agents, and resisting arrest. 

This effort serves as notice to all transnational criminal organizations that assaulting DHS personnel will result in a unified, whole of government effort to locate, arrest and prosecute the suspect and their known associates.

All JTF-W components will continue to work in collaboration to prioritize and target potentially dangerous threats and help ensure a safer operational environment throughout the California Corridor.

For all media inquiries, please contact U.S. Border Patrol Public Affairs Office at (619) 216-4037.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017