U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, September 5, 2019
On Sept. 4, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Limelight USA at three airports across the U.S. with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Operation Limelight USA aims to inform travelers of the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) and the consequences for those who commit this horrific abuse.
HSI special agents spoke to more than 160 travelers from ten international flights between Los Angeles International Airport, Newark International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport as part of Operation Limelight USA. They educated passengers flying to or from high-risk countries, offering informational brochures and identifying potential victims and violators of FGM. These discussions informed passengers on the consequences of involvement in FGM and provided passengers with a means to refer cases or receive victim assistance.
“Female genital mutilation is a human rights abuse, and we are absolutely committed to both investigating and preventing this abuse,” said the Chief of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, Mark Shaffer. “Operation Limelight USA is key to our prevention goals and helps us reach potential victims and their families while also providing a lifeline to survivors who are ready to reach out and report.”
Operation Limelight USA is the U.S.-based version of Operation Limelight, a joint initiative by the United Kingdom Border Force and police services across the United Kingdom (U.K.). In 2018, law enforcement officials from the United States and the U.K. signed a joint proclamation affirming their commitment to end the practice of FGM and reinforcing the need to cooperate across borders to address this international issue.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. While primarily concentrated in north, west, and central Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East and Asia, FGM also occurs in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States are either victims of FGM or are at risk of being subjected to it.
“We have to remember that this is not just something that happens abroad. Women and girls in our own communities are at risk,” said Shaffer. This is the third year HSI has conducted Operation Limelight USA outreach events in the U.S.
Anyone with information about victims or perpetrators of female genital mutilation is encouraged to call the toll-free HSI tip line at (866) 347-2423 or complete the HSI online tip form. For more information about female genital mutilation, view this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of State and visit www.un.org, www.unfpa.org, and www.unicef.org.