LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A plan to prosecute parents who pay smugglers to illegally bring their children across the U.S. border is aimed at quelling human trafficking, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Thursday.

Asked about the initiative while touring a U.S. Coast Guard vessel in Southern California, Kelly said he believes those who help human traffickers — including parents who pay for their children to be brought to the U.S. illegally — should be arrested and prosecuted.

"When you pay these really unscrupulous, cruel traffickers to take individuals, whether it's a child or an adult, through this incredibly dangerous network up through Mexico and Central America into the United States, loss of life is constant," Kelly said.

The smugglers have left children in deserts once they cross into the U.S. and smuggling networks generate millions of dollars in illicit income, Kelly said.

"Anyone who contributes to the human trafficking network, we need to deter that and we need to apprehend them and let the courts decide what to do with them," he said.

Kelly says the vast majority of traffickers who are arrested by federal immigration officers are those who are paid money to take people into the U.S.

"We've got to knock down this human trafficking thing," he said.

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